War for the Power to Adapt the Constitution to a New Doctrine
A great irony of American history is that England and its royal family (and certainly New England), for the most part responsible for the introduction and continuance of African slavery in North America, have escaped reprobation; and to this day the American South, which tried to stop the slave importations and never produced a slave ship, is arraigned as the originator of African slavery and wholly responsible for its perpetuation.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
War for the Power to Adapt the Constitution to a New Doctrine:
“The cause of
The fight on the part of the north was for the power to adapt the Constitution to its new doctrine, and yet to maintain the Union; on the part of the south, it was for the preservation of guaranteed constitutional rights. Through the force of circumstances and under “an inexorable political necessity,” the South found itself compelled to assume finally the defence of the system; but it was not responsible either for its origin or continuance, and the very men who fought to prevent external interference with it had spent their lives endeavoring to solve the problem of its proper abolition.
The African slave trade, dating from about the year 1442…when it was begun by Anthony Gonzales, a Portuguese, was continued until the present century was well installed. It was chartered and encouraged by Queen Elizabeth, and by her royal successors, against the protest of the Southern colonies, down to the time of the American Revolution. The first nation on the civilized globe to protest against it as monstrous was the Southern colony, Virginia. Twenty-three times her people protested to the crown in public acts of her assembly.
One of the most scathing charges, brought by the writer of the Declaration of Independence against the crown, was that in which he arraigns the king of England for having “waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or incurring a miserable death in their transportation hither.”
This clause was the product of Thomas Jefferson, a Southerner, and although it was stricken out in accordance with the wishes of two of the Southern colonies, yet substantially the same charge was made in the Constitution of Virginia…”
If the South had at any previous time inclined to profit by the slave trade, it was only in common with the rest of Christendom – particularly with New England – when the most zealous and religious were participants in it; when the Duke of York, the future sovereign himself, was the head of the company chartered under the Great Seal of England, and when the queen-mother, the queen-consort, Prince Rupert, the Earl of Shaftsbury, and the leading men of the times were incorporators. Even the godly John Newton was interested in the traffic.
In the South, however, long before Jefferson framed his famous arraignment of the king of Great Britain, protest on protest had been made against the iniquity, and all the ingenuity of those men who produced the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States had been exercised to bring it to an end.”
(The Old South, Essays Social and Political, Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896, pp. 26-28)