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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Every so many years, I revisit certain issues. This time I asked for this forum’s help in revisiting the causes of the Civil War. Only fair that I should share what I learned with those who helped.
This ain’t no scholarly paper, with foot notes and someone wrote it in a book so it must be so, and all. It is what I think I have learned going over it from a different angle, this time. I’d rather you delve into it and come up with the same conclusions, or call me on where you think I got it wrong. And it is wordy, even for me!
Been 41 years since I won the DAR for knowledge of American history. Ain’t no brag, just an award given to young ones showed interest to encourage them on. Mostly what I learned since is, in spite of all the lowlifes we now venerate, this country got more greatness than I thought back then. And our idea of freedom ain’t even close to theirs! And the “bad guys” were better people than I’d thought.

In 1781 the Articles of Confederation were ratified. They joined the Colonies into one nation, in perpetuity. In 1791, the Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified. It only required 9 of the states for ratification, those not ratifying to become independent sovereign nations. So much for perpetuity.
States could not have seceded from the articles. Tenth amendment says that all rights not prohibited to the states by the Constitution are reserved to the states. Don’t say squat about secession so, to a layman like me, that means the states could secede. Mighty messy way to run a country, though; if they’d asked me.
At the time of the Constitution, all states had slavery except Vermont and Massachusetts. Vermont forbade slavery, and apprenticeship below a certain age, in their constitution. Massachusetts law was ambiguous, but the courts interpreted it to outlaw slavery; and that was good enough for their legislature. Slavery in some of the northern New England states did exist technically, but not in any great numbers.

First state wanting to secede was Massachusetts; over the War of 1812; was hurting business.
Next was South Carolina, over tariffs; was hurting business. 1832
Then Mississippi, over California being admitted as a free state. Louisiana and Mississippi had been instrumental in bringing California into the union and resented being blocked from settling there, in their culture. 1850
Then South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas; over Lincoln’s election. late 1860 & early 1861
Then Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas; over Lincoln’s firing on Fort Sumter in Charlestown, South Carolina; and breaking faith at Pensacola, Florida; and imposing martial law in Maryland.
Then Kentucky, Missouri and the Arizona Territory (Arizona & New Mexico). Could be any of the above reasons because “things” made seceding a slower procedure in those places (union forces in the former and geography in the last). Whether Maryland would have also seceded, given the chance, is open to debate.

The Madison administration smoothed things over with Massachusetts.
President Jackson used a two pronged approach: called out the troops and quietly (and slowly) repealed the tariff.
Couldn’t quite muster the political support to secede in 1850.
President Lincoln refused to talk with the seceding states and instead, called out the Massachusetts militia, called for conscription, declared a state of emergency and martial law (while neither the Supreme Court nor congress were in session). An LBJ or RMN, probably would have been a footnote on their rough inaugural, and nothing more. But Abe Lincoln was not of our modern caliber.

Why did the first seven states secede, and why just then?
They seceded because Abe Lincoln had been elected and they didn’t want to wait for him to name Republicans to Southern posts.
Have to digress in that, back then, the president had a lot of patronage; controlled ports and the post office and a whole lot more, was a big part of the president’s powers. Changed in President Arthur’s lame duck session. As an example, and surprise, looking at the reunions of Mosby’s Rangers; about a third of them found employment as patronage employees in President Grant’s administration. Maybe he wanted to bring the country back together and maybe he was still tortured by the “Unconditional Surrender Grant” nickname. The gentleman he issued that statement to was one who had bailed Captain Grant out financially when he was in great hardship. I think that message cost newly promoted (didn’t yet know how much he could get away with) General Grant anguish and regret the rest of his life. I’m sorry is written on his terms at Vicksburg and Appomattox, and his presidency. President Grant’s appointment of James Longstreet to Harbormaster of New Orleans sparked a lot of the Gettysburg controversy; General Lee’s people blaming General Stuart and General Stuart’s people blaming General Longstreet and General Longstreet’s people blaming General Lee. But didn’t have nothing to do with any of that! James and Hyrum were best friends at the Point. When Hyrum married into the Longstreet clan, was James stood him best man. Can’t get no closer than to sit on the other side of the church from one’s own kin.

When this country started, slavery was near universal. As time went by, slavery was phased out in the northern parts but still profitable in the southern parts. Production of raw materials from slave labor was the best return for investment in the southern part of the US right up to the Civil War. Reason why the South had so little industry, raw materials paid better. Much of the original northern US had been cleared by slaves, but after that was not profitable. We hear so much about the hard working pioneers in the colonies. Most of those people were wiped out by Indians. Weren’t a cake walk for nobody and weren’t all the northern slaves sold south when abolition come to town. But most were. There just ain’t no one story for any part of this country!
Slavery was not an important issue for Southern secession in 1832. It was the cornerstone for it in 1860. What changed? The North.
The North defined southern culture as slave culture, and the South bought into it. Up until 1850, slavery was not that popular in the South. Issue was agricultural labor; and California. Look at things today, see any irony? The deep South and California needing cheap farm labor. Sound anything like migrant farm laborers? Know they are an exception to our minimum wage law. Anyway, slavery wasn’t an issue until 1850.
Abolition wasn’t all that popular in the North. Remember northern mills used slave produced raw materials; northern ships carried on most of the new world slave trade after 1825ish. Most free Blacks lived in the South, where they were accepted. Viewed as strange competition in the North. North used immigrant labor, at far less than slave costs. We cannot get away from two facts: Slavery is wrong and average labor conditions in the North were worse than average slave conditions in the South. Virginia possibly had more abolitionists per capita than elsewhere. But what plan for the LAST abolition? Northern states had the option of freeing or selling their slaves. South, like all capital, was paper out on the slaves. Mississippi figured about four billion dollars there. If that paper defaulted, everyone lost, the financial institutions collapsed.

Northern US, England and, to enough of an extent, France were dependant upon Southern US raw materials to fuel their industries. Great deprivation and riots in England and France. Were they not also selling to both sides, would have been worse. Vatican only foreign power to officially recognize the Confederacy. Also helped slow down the shanghaiing of Europeans to fight for the Union (we’ve got this great carpenter’s job for you, come on over). Had the Civil War occurred before steam, England probably would have come in to annex Maine. Not worth the risk in 1862.

Fire eaters, die hard secessionists. These guys wanted secession, PERIOD. Blamed the North for everything but the weather. They had some good points, but also some very faulty ones. Only part of their rant was on solid constitutional grounds was slavery. Only one they brought up when they talked Constitution. These hard core secessionists held with clearly, verbatim, unconstitutional things like nullification and filibustering. States declaring any federal law they disliked null and void and states carrying out their own foreign policy, mostly wars of annexation; but with the rest of the states to come to their rescue if they bit off….
For twenty-nine years they tried to get popular support in the South; didn’t happen. In 1860 they figured that neither political party expressed their views, pure enough; and so they needed to change things. Threw a monkey wrench into the Democratic Convention. Some thought that this would throw the election into the House of Representatives and they would win there. Others, also first group’s worse case, thought that a Republican would be elected; and then their fellow Southerners would FINALLY come along, and secede. Sort of a win-win situation; they thought. Boy, Were they wrong!

Whole thing started over tariffs, and went on from there; to tyranny of the majority and slavery. Was President McKinley, Republican and last Civil War Union solder to be president, put an end to tariffs as main source of federal income. History is irony in action.

Didn’t find a clue as to what happened to Southern participation in the US Navy and merchant marine between 1812 and 1860.

I also discovered a lot of atrocities committed upon the South by the North I hadn’t known about before; knew of enough, but not how really bad it was. Over riding was that we are one “people”; the people of the idea. The ties that bind are stronger than our differences; not that our differences are anything to part over; we need differences!

Knew we are the only country that reenacts our Civil War battles in as great a detail as possible (meaning that other countries don’t reenact theirs, not ours). Have been looking into the Bear River Massacre, 1/29/1863 just north of Preston, Idaho. Found out that a few years ago, some Civil war reenactors came up from Utah, as did Connor’s Volunteers, and met with some Indians (couple of bands) at the site; to reenact the battle. Only they did it in the summer. Can’t hardly have a decent picnic afterwards in the winter.

Premium Member
1,343 Posts
If you ever get to the Harrisburg, PA area they have a great museum on the War of Northern Aggression. THEY call it the National Civil War Museum (ain't nuthin' civil bout war) it is an unbiased account of what led to the war. It does a very good job of presenting both sides of the argument, starting around 1850 thru 1870.

My great-great grandad was a Cpl in the 14th VA Militia, Co D Three or four brothers were Pvts in the 18th VA Cal, Co B. So I'm just a little sympathitic to the cause.

580 Posts
Well said, Silvertip. I think one part of the equation that people today don't consider is that in the culture of the 19th century was a culture based on honor. That's why they had duels and fueds. I can't remember their names offhand but a S. Carolina senator beat with a cane a senator from Massechusetts almost to death. His honor was impugned. Too bad our politicians today are'nt honorable. I would pay to see a few caned.

546 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
If I get back that way again, I surely will. It was a war of aggression against the South; like they were a foreign country of sub-humans to be conquered and disposed of. Also, is beautiful country back there.
Virginia kind of got dragooned into the war. They didn’t want to secede and didn’t; until there were Massachusetts troops on their border, set to invade and impose martial law.

I can’t remember their names either, and have read enough accounts of it. Must be getting old. Seems that a Massachusetts Senator insulted an absent South Carolina Senator. But one of his kin was there and challenged the Yankee to a duel, which he refused. Now, dueling had gone out of acceptance in the North about the turn of the 18th century (witness what happened to Aaron Burr over his meeting with Alexander Hamilton) but was still the mindset of the South. So the, I’m thinking brother, caned the low life in his senate chambers. Caused quite a stir, not as much as Vice President Burr caused, however.
Precedent for it was Congressman Sam Houston. Reporter wrote some uncomplimentary things about Sam and he took exception by challenging the reporter to a duel, which the reporter refused. But had the misfortune of running into the Honorable Houston on the street shortly thereafter. Houston beat him very badly with his walking stick; he brought charges in congress. Sam Houston claimed that the reporter had libeled him and then refused to fight a duel, therefore he had no honor and was of no account. Reporter claimed that he had said no such things about the Honorable Congressman, just reported that others had said such on the floor of congress. Sam got off with a reprimand, and went on to be governor. Thinking the, I’m thinking Congressman, from South Carolina was also returned to office. Politicians of today; eat your alleged hearts out! If any haven’t read a biography of Sam Houston, there are rare treats awaiting you.
The people who preceded us lived large. If we had half an inkling, we would be ashamed.
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