Last Update: 15 Aug 00
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REPLY #2 TO
(R) Although I agree with your position on race relations and commend the article I must disagree with the notion that the civil war was started over slavery. While its true that the war started in 1861 due to a slavery issue it would eventually have been fought anyway. Compromise had all but come to an end between the industrial north and the agriculture south. Economics played as big a part in the war as did slavery, slavery was just an excuse to start the war in 1861, rather than later, in an attempt to preserve the union. With or without slavery the civil war was an all but inevitable clash between two cultures and two sets of social values.
(MB) Modern histories of pre-Civil War America have tended to omit or downplay some important facts that support what I said about slavery being the primary cause of the war. There were many incendiary economic and "states rights" issues that divided the country in the first half of the 19th century, but they were all either solved or mollified by compromise. Even in the 1830's, when South Carolina became the first state to nullify a federal law (an import tariff) and President Andrew Jackson sent in federal troops, the disputes ended up being games of political "chicken". One side would finally blink or sidestep and a compromise would be reached. Most historians feel that there was little or no chance of any economic issue causing a breakup of the Union.
However, slavery was a different issue altogether. Here you had something that was not only an economic issue, but, more importantly, was a matter of an entire way of life in the South. The slave states had normally gained concessions from Congress in the various compromises that had been reached over the years and had conceded little. A series of weak Presidents after Jackson had made the South even stronger on this issue. But, with the election of 1860 and the threat of a strong-willed Abraham Lincoln rising to national prominence, the South played their hole card and threatened succession if an avowedly anti-slavery Lincoln was elected to be President. When the Southern Democrats failed to field a decent candidate and Lincoln won election, South Carolina led the way and seceded from the Union in December 1860. Six other states quickly followed suit and the Confederacy was born -- along with its Constitution's absolute permission of slavery.
Northern recruits were not fighting to "free the slaves", but were persuaded to join "so that the Union could be preserved". However, the fact remains that the Confederacy would not have been formed if slavery had not been seriously threatened by the election of Lincoln.
(R) In addition I believe that one of your others readers touch on the subject, but the freeing of the slaves was not because Lincoln wanted to be a humanitarian, but, rather to put an additional economic burden on the already poor south.
(MB) This is correct. Actually, another major reason for the Emancipation Proclamation was to force the hand of England and France as to whether or not they would support the Confederacy. With Lincoln's proclamation, the Union was now firmly committed to abolishing slavery. England and France could not now support the Confederacy without being seen as disputing that policy. From that point on, it was only a matter of time before the Confederacy would be bled dry by the manpower and manufacturing advantages of the Union. The rest, as they say, is history -- albeit, a rather bloody and awful history.
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