Defense Of Southern Secession And Slavery
Posted Below is additional debate between myself and Col. Rash originating from his statements that Southern secession was unjustified because it was in defense of slavery.
James W. King
Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 141
Lt. Col. Thomas M. Nelson
My dear Mr. King,
With all due respect, it appears your knowledge of my knowledge is limited. I’m perfectly aware of the historical intricacies and nuances that shaped the relationship between the northern and southern states; there is little you can tell me that I do not already know. Much like Mr. Canipe – who I shall deal with in a separate e-mail – you cannot see the forest for the trees nor can you deny that which is undeniable: when the CSA was formed shortly after Lincon’s election, the principle reason they gave for their secession was the preservation of the institution of slavery. As such, it completely vitiates their attempt to justify secession based on the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence. It is the summit of hypocrisy for one people to demand liberty and independence when they hold another in the chains of bondage. Had the slaveholding states been willing to restrict slavery to a few states and not import it into new territories and if they further committed to abolishing slavery on
their own, the story might have ended differently.
History is full of fascinating "what ifs," but they will always remain "what ifs." However we live in the here and now; the "there and then" is well documented and facts are stubborn things, Commander King. I read your Ten Causes of the War Between the States and have no fundamental quibble with it. Indeed, I agree with most of it – although the ancient cultural differences as well as the alleged religious differences were a bit stretched).
Nevertheless, the fact remains that in the declarations of independence of the various slave states the institution of slavery is given pride of place as one of the prime moving forces impelling these states to the separation.
Understand me, sir: I appreciate – and to some degree sympathize – with the plight of the southern states prior to the rebellion. But the circumstances surrounding the causes of the separation cannot be equated in good faith with those surrounding the desire of the American colonies to be free of the yoke of Great Britain.
Your humble servant,
Sir, if I have underestimated your knowledge and understanding of history then I owe you an apology. Still, I have the feeling that you may not fully understand and appreciate the effect that radical abolition had on the entire Southern population. Yes, you are correct that the seceding Southern states in their declarations of independence stated the institution of slavery as the primary reason for secession. But most Southerners knew prior to the war that slavery was a dying institution. If radicals and fanatics in the North had simply "left it alone to die a natural death" as it had in the rest of the Western Hemisphere it would have likely been over by 1900.
I view the relationship of the North and South as comparable to a bad marriage in which one partner (North) abuses the other partner (South) to the point that a divorce is necessary and "enough is enough". I urge you to read the 752 page book "The South Under Siege 1830-2000". I would be pleased to loan and mail to you a copy for several months. Also the 75 page book written between 1930-35 by Samuel A. Ashe, the last surviving member of the Confederate cabinet. He describes the effects of radical abolitionists and discusses the reasons for secession.
I view radical abolition as total hypocrisy in this respect: It was the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, English and the American colonies of New England–Mass., Conn., Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and New York that imported the slaves from Africa to America. They became wealthy from the trade and if slavery had been profitable in the factories of the North they would have fought to defend it. They sold the slaves to the Southern planters and then several generations later their descendants told Southerners they were immoral for having slaves.
I also consider it wrong to project 20th and 21st century moral values back upon the the 19th and earlier centuries. Certainly by modern standards slavery is obsolete and wrong but it had (and still does in some areas of the world) existed since the dawn of the human race. Certainly some slaves were abused but most were fairly treated on Southern plantations and some extremely well to the degree they considered themselves superior to poor whites. In many ways slavery was more moral than the Northern labor system where poor whites slaved in factories (some children were chained to work stations and whips cracked over them) and were fired when they became old and infirm. In the South a slave was cared for from birth to death. The worst treatment a slave endured was on European and "Yankee" ships being transported from Africa to America. Are you familiar with the "Slave Narratives"? In circa 1934 during the FDR Roosevelt Administration about 2200 old former slaves were interviewed and their storied recorded. About 80% spoke favorably of their former masters and some extremely favorable considering themselves family and some that left when free after the war expressed regret at ever leaving "their family". I am convinced that slavery was much more benign than the image that the connotation of the word "slavery" creates in the mind of most modern Americans. European visitors and Northern visitors to the pre-war South describe slaves a "extremely happy and singing and dancing and carefree". Reference: "Truths of History" by Mildred Lewis Rutherford who was for many years Circa 1890-1926 the historian for the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The culture of the North and South was (and is) so different that perhaps it should have produced 2 nations although I am by no means a modern secessionist advocating secession as some are. We have Red and Blue states and virtually no one is satisfied. In general I believe the South is more conservative and Christian than the North where socialism and liberalism seem accepted to a greater degree.
Regardless I will always defend the actions of my ancestors in secession from a corrupt union ruled by a rabid sectional party (Republicans under Lincoln) who had captured the power of the federal government. Actually one of my ancestors (Jacob Young of Irwin county Georgia) was a delegate to the Georgia secession convention and voted against secession.
I blame the war on Lincoln who acted with deceit in the Ft.Sumter incident. Correspondence with naval commander G.V. Fox proves his intent was to start a war. He refused to meet with a Southern peace delegation who was in Washington 30 days or so.
The South was offered the Corwin Amendment (the original 13th amendment) to the U.S. Constitution and would have made slavery a permanent legal institution. The South rejected it. They could have rejoined the union and kept slavery without firing a shot. This has been used as an argument that the war on the part of the South was for Independence and States Rights as opposed to slavery. The knowledge that radical abolition would continue it’s efforts to foment murderous rebellion and mass murder was probably a factor in the decision to reject the Corwin amendment.
Regardless I stand with my ancestors and defend their actions and if we cannot agree then we will just have to agree to disagree.
Read the quote below by the famous Horace Greeley-Editor New York Tribune. Obviously he felt that the South was justified. At least until Lincoln sent Federal troops and burned and shut down 200-300 newspapers and only allowed those tho promised not to criticize him to reopen. The greatest violation of First Amendment rights of Freedom of the Press in American history. He suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus and jailed about 200,000 Northern citizens who criticized him–38,000 for the duration of the war.
New York Tribune
Dec. 17, 1860
"If tyranny and despotism justified the Revolution of 1776, then we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861." – From the pen of Horace Greeley.