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Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!
Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).
This is the first of a two-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of this part to read the last part of the reply.
(R) I must once again take exception to your facts.
(MB) No problem. It's only by examination and verification that we can get to the truth behind any burning question.
(R) While most of what you say has merit, the reasons for the civil war have been varied and revised over the years since 1865.
(MB) They have, indeed. Often, this is due to the bias of the historian or the targeting of the audience for whom the historical account has been written. It also, to some degree, reflects social amnesia about an issue that has come to be a profound embarrassment to modern Americans.
(R) The fact still remains, and you can check this out for yourself at the SC state house, the SC record of secession lists as the first reason, "an opponent of protection in tariff" and secondly "as a defender of slavery".
(MB) I'm not sure which document you are referring to in this comment. The South Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession, dated December 24, 1860 speaks almost in its entirety of the preservation of the institution of slavery as being the root cause of secession and specifically mentions the threat posed by the election of Lincoln. Near the end of the document, it reads:
"On the 4th of March next this party (Lincoln's Republicans) will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the Judicial tribunal shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against Slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
"The guarantees of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The Slave-holding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy."
(R) The South was being discriminated against by the North by having to sell their cotton and farm produce in a world market completely unprotected by tariffs, but, were forced to buy their manufactured goods in an American market heavily protected by tariffs. While its true that compromise gave the illusion of satisfying the Southern concerns, they were still very much alive and well and a continuing issue of debate in the South. The essential causes have always been and will continue to be a controversial issue far beyond our years.
(MB) The tariff you mention was the so-called "Tariff of Abominations" of 1828. Its passage inspired South Carolina to lead the Nullification movement, which claimed that States had a right to declare any federal law null and void within that State. On November 24, 1832, South Carolina issued an Ordinance of Nullification on the Tariff. President Andrew Jackson threatened to send 50,000 troops to Charleston to enforce the tariff. The governor of South Carolina called for 10,000 troops to "repel the invasion". But, no shots were fired and Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun reconciled the claims of the opposing sides with the Compromise Tariff of 1833. As with all other arguments about States' rights -- except over the insoluble issue of slavery -- compromise was reached and further problems were avoided.
(R) Northern writers have continually taken one side of the debate while Southern writers have taken the other side. Writers not considered to be Northern nor Southern have also displayed some differences of opinion as to the causes of the war. Bottom line is, it must be considered an important fact that SC listed an economic reason first in their declaration.
(MB) That's why one must consult the historical documents to see what was actually said. In the document I quoted from above, South Carolina makes no mention of economic factors as causing secession. It's all about slavery.
(R) It should also be pointed out that SC began debating secession in earnest around 1858 and by the time Lincoln was elected the majority of South Carolinians were already in favor of secession.
(MB) The legislature was in favor of secession, but the issue was never put before the public for any sort of referendum. Later, in Tennessee, a public vote opposed secession, but the governor pushed it through anyway.
(R) Georgia was one of the most prosperous states in the South in the late 1850s and into the 1860s and if you check its history you'll find that the constitutional interpretation of the civil war from one of its statesmen, Alexander H Stephens, who stated that "the civil war was an economic conflict between the sections", was the Southern viewpoint in the post war years.
(MB) Stephens was the first vice-president of the Confederacy and initially voted against Georgia's secession. You are, I assume, referring to his book, A Constitutional View of the War Between the States. It's reasonable to think that the South would attempt to put a good face on the reasons for their attempt at independence. Certainly, they could no longer hold onto the aggressive pro-slavery views from before the war.
(R) Although an after thought, I think you'll find that the slavery issue took the forefront in almost all history books following the Civil Rights Act and the rising race relations issues of the 1960s.
(MB) Kenneth C. Davis, in "Don't Know Much About the Civil War" says pretty much the exact opposite. In his book, he recounts that in the 1960's, it became fashionable to say that the Civil War was about issues other than slavery. In my opinion, this is probably because the question may well have been one that was so well known as to have been taken for granted. Only with the advent of contrary opinions in the 1960's did it become necessary for history books to make explicit mention of slavery as the root cause of the Civil War. We may see a similar thing in the future regarding the Holocaust. Only with the recent rise in popularity of Holocaust denial has it become necessary for books to "prove" what really happened. Prior to recent years, there were no doubters. Time fades all memories, I guess.
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