The cause of the War of Secession
 
From: vaproto@optonline.net
 
This message is in reply to an e-mail to Dr. Sale regarding his column in Lew Rockwell.
 
Valerie
 

—— Forwarded Message
From: jkelas@aol.com
 
To: vaproto@optonline.net
 
I think you are quite right in saying the cause was basically one of the imbalance of power, coupled with the changing nature of the national government into a "modern" industrial state bent on empire.  Protecting slavery was only one of the symptoms.
 
Thank you.
 
Kirkpatrick Sale
Director@MiddleburyInstitute.org
 
 
—–Original Message—–
From: vaproto@optonline.net
To: JKELAS@aol.com
 
Dear Mr. Sale,
 
I enjoyed your article in Lew Rockwell on the "establishment" insistence of slavery as the "one and only" cause of the War. Of course, if the debate is thus framed, few can "defend" the South without being called (much less viewed as) a racist. This is nonsense as any thinking person, even one unfamiliar with the history of the time, can easily see. One need only examine the Corwin Amendment – the original 13th Amendment to the Constitution – which placed slavery irrevocably in that document in perpetuity. If the South was indeed concerned solely and only with slavery, they would have stayed in the Union. Indeed, even Lincoln’s famous Emancipation promises to restore slavery in any state that returned too the Union before January of 1864. So much for a war against slavery!
 
However, the tariff issues is not in and of itself a sufficient cause either. Just as most Southerners did not own slaves (or owned only a few), those affected by tariffs also did not make up the vast majority of the people of the South – though, of course, it is certain that the worsening impoverishment of Southern states caused by the transfer of their money northward as part of "the American system" of corporate welfare did in fact affect ALL Southerners. And even the unfair and unjust system of "internal improvements" probably would not have caused most Southerners – who were very patriotic and wedded to the original Union – to take such a drastic step as to sever all contacts with the old compact and the old flag.
 
Where then does this leave us if all of the above – even at their worst – seems unlikely to have caused the tide of secession that eventually swept through the entire South (and would have included Missouri and probably Maryland had not the federal government militarily interfered in those states)? Was there in fact a simple, fundamental underlying issue that coupled with all of the above brought most of the states of the South to the tipping point? (Remember, Virginia and North Carolina were very much against secession and only "went out" because they were instructed by the federal government to provide troops to wage war against fellow states – the only act defined as treason in the Constitution.) Yes, there WAS (and remains) such an issue which, like the string that makes of assorted beads a cohesive string. That issue was the rising power of the federal government. Even had the South not found itself marginalized and politically impotent by virtue of it ever diminishing representation in the "national" (no longer "federal") government, the fact that the nation was fundamentally changing from a republic to an empire (Andrew Jackson, the Mexican war etc.) meant that the type of government – limited and at the consent of the governed – was no longer the government of the original Union and the South wanted out. Their statesmen could see that lacking any political voice because of their isolation (no new "Southern" states could be brought into the Union because the federal government would not permit the residents of territories to vote on whether to be slave or free, a usurpation of power on the part of Washington) and knowing that they would continue to pay for increasing Northern power without any recompense or even respect in return, many if not most of the Southern states foresaw of second class future, a fact which indeed did come to pass after the War.
 
Below is a very concise evaluation of the problem from a Missouri Senator during the crisis surrounding the Tariffs of Abomination in the 1820s.
 
"Before the (American) revolution

[the South] was the seat of wealth, as well as hospitality….Wealth has fled from the South, and settled in regions north of the Potomac: and this in the face of the fact, that the South, in four staples alone, has exported produce, since the Revolution, to the value of eight hundred millions of dollars; and the North has exported comparatively nothing. Such an export would indicate unparalleled wealth, but what is the fact?….Under Federal legislation, the exports of the South have been the basis of the Federal revenue….Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, may be said to defray three-fourths of the annual expense of supporting the Federal Government; and of this great sum, annually furnished by them, nothing or next to nothing is returned to them, in the shape of Government expenditures. That expenditure flows in an opposite direction – it flows northwardly, in one uniform, uninterrupted, and perennial stream. This is the reason why wealth disappears from the South and rises up in the North. Federal legislation does all this."—Missouri Senator Thomas H. Benton, 1828
 
In this simple statement, you see presented the (justified) fears of the South regarding the incremental increase of power being assumed by the federal government for the welfare of one section of the nation – or more precisely, AGAINST one section of the nation in order to assist the rest. There is no doubt in my mind that all of the "causes" of the War of Secession have at their heart this fear of the increase of federal power at the expense of the Sovereign States and the People which is why I like to call the conflict, The War AGAINST the States. And the war goes on. Indeed, we are now in the final stages of fruition of Mr. Lincoln’s war to gather all power in Washington and make of the (formerly) Sovereign States mere counties under a NATIONAL head.
 
Thank you for your courtesy.
 
Valerie Protopapas