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Washington Post - "Five myths about why the South seceded"

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Naevius Posted: Wed, Mar 2 2011 7:48 PM

Through a rather circuitous fashion I stumbled across this Washington Post article:

I certainly don't agree with it but I thought it raised some interesting points I'd like to see discussed here. What do you think?

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I might be in the minority, but I agree with at least the main claims in #1-3.  Any minority in government will claim to be all for states' right when they don't have federal power.  Obviously they were pissed about all of that, but it was mainly slavery that they wanted to protect.  #4 won't see any real dispute.  #5 ignores the obvious economic disadvantage of a slave economy.  Productivity gains eventually outweigh the advantage of free labor.

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Egon replied on Mon, Mar 14 2011 1:31 PM

My Critique on the Washington Post's "Five myths about why the South seceded"

Washington Post:  "Confederates opposed states' rights -- that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery."

My Response:  Under the Constitution at the time, the free states had no right to obstruct slavery.  I quote from Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution: "No Person held to Service or Labour 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 Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due" (emphasis added).

WP:  "Slavery, not states' rights, birthed the Civil War." 

I:  The Civil War began on April 12, 1861 when South Carolinian forces fired on the Union's Fort Sumpter.  The Union responded on April 15, 1861 by calling up military forces to subdue the CSA, effectively wiping out the United States of America and replacing them with a single United State of America.

WP:  "Until the Civil War, Southern presidents and lawmakers had dominated the federal government. The people in power in Washington always oppose states' rights. Doing so preserves their own."

I:  I think the above analysis is right on.  The CSA seem to me to have been highly opportunistic and only concerned about upholding the Constitution when doing so served their interests.

WP:  "Tariffs were not an issue in 1860, and Southern states said nothing about them."

I:  My limited research shows the above statement to be largely true.  The State of Georgia's official explanation for its secession, briefly discusses protectionism, but seems to imply that it wasn't a problem after 1846 and doesn't list import duties as a cause for secession. 

WP:  "[T]he North initially went to war to hold the nation together. Abolition came later."

I:  To me this seems to be right on the money.  I personally suspect, based of course on limited research, that the USA launched its campaign against the CSA mainly to impose Abraham Lincoln's economic agenda called the "American System."  (Of course, the American System is nowhere mentioned in the article.)  I suspect that the Emancipation Proclamation was a ploy by the USA to attract outside sympathy for its cause.

WP:  "For the foreseeable future, slavery looked secure. Perhaps a civil war was required to end it."

I:  The above is a speculative statement.  I will counter it with my own speculation.  Once the CSA left the Union, its remaining states were largely off the hook regarding the Fugitive Slave Act.  As the compact between the original federated states had been broken, the USA were under no obligation to return runaway slaves to the CSA.  I speculate that this lack of ownership security would have made slave ownership more costly and less popular, eventually contributing to its demise.  Of course, the USA ended up invading and conquering the CSA, so we will never know what may have happened had the war not been launched.


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Egon replied on Mon, Mar 14 2011 1:33 PM

Nuts, I realize now that there were a few errors in my critique but I don't have the energy to correct them now.

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Wibee replied on Thu, Mar 17 2011 6:00 PM

I agree.  It's like being against the civil rights act makes you racist.  Foreign countries may have ben salivating over perhaps invading the US weakened by war.  By making the war a fight against slavery, it transformed the war into a morally justified war*(in the eyes of foreign peons).  Any attack against the US is support for slavery.  


I suspect that the Emancipation Proclamation was a ploy by the USA to attract outside sympathy for its cause.
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