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L. Neil Smith's
Number 622, June 5, 2011

"The cops have gone crazy.
There's lots of this going around, these days."

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Was Slavery The Only Cause Of The Civil War? Think Again
by Conor MacCormack

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Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

This article was originally published on April 12th, 2011

150 years ago today Confederate batteries in Charleston, South Carolina opened fire on Fort Sumter, one of three Federal garrisons positioned in the city harbor, officially commencing hostilities in the conflict that would become forever known as the Civil War (Our friends south of the Mason-Dixon line prefer the War for Southern Independence and the War of Northern Aggression among other fitting titles). To commemorate this, perhaps the most defining moment of American history, the resident statist propagandists in academia and the media, liberal and conservative alike, have gone into overdrive to further expound upon the "rightness" of the Northern cause and the seemingly Messianic qualities of its foremost champion: Abraham Lincoln.

Anyone who has been sentenced to attend one of those rules-ridden, state sponsored penal colonies otherwise known as a public school knows where I'm coming from: the many idolatrous busts of "Father Abraham" that fill the classrooms, heartfelt lectures on the compassion of the "Great Emancipator", and being forced to recite the nationalistic Pledge of Allegiance (which was derived from the amnesty oath that ex-Confederates were forced to take to regain their citizenship). We were told time and again of the evil, racist, demonic Southerners who violently left the Union because of Lincoln's intention to liberate the slaves.

Despite this well entrenched system of indoctrination, there are a refreshingly surprising number of free-thinking souls out there who dare to question the official historical narrative of the conflict. Like clockwork, though, the politically correct fascists and Lincoln cultists label them as bigots, white supremacists, and neo-Confederates who if given the chance would re institute slavery. So much for the idea of a "marketplace of ideas" in a free society! A look at the historical record, however, will convincingly cut through the smears and jingoism to show that slavery was far from being the lone cause of the war.

While most historians are quick to harp upon the Southern mindset of white supremacy, they neglect to mention that this sentiment was just as equally widespread (if not more so) in the North. I know this may come as a shock to many of you, so I warn you in advance to brace yourselves: Lincoln himself was an outspoken advocate of white racial superiority. During his famous set of debates with Stephen Douglass for appointment from Illinois to the US Senate Lincoln emphatically stated: "I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the black and white races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of equal equality." 8 years earlier in 1850 Lincoln spoke out in favor of the Fugitive Slave Act, which gave the federal government authority to conscript citizens to return runaway slaves to their masters: "When they (slave owners) remind us of their constitutional rights (to own slaves), I acknowledge them, not grudgingly but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives".

While Lincoln was against the expansion of slavery into the Western territories (albeit so that they could be reserved for "the homes of free white people") he had no desire whatsoever to abolish the practice within the Southern states. He declared in his first Inaugural Address that "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." In the same Address he also expressed his support for a constitutional amendment (known as the Corwin Amendment) that would enshrine the institution of slavery in the Constitution, which had been confirmed as a constitutional right by the Supreme Court in the heinous Dred Scott decision of 1857.

Furthermore Lincoln's hailed Emancipation Proclamation did absolutely nothing to abolish slavery. While only the slaves that were in the "rebellious" Southern states were declared free, the peculiar institution remained legal in the Union border states of Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky. This move was chiefly political: Lincoln shrewdly calculated that if he made "emancipation", rather than state's rights, the main issue of the war that the slave free European nations (particularly Great Britain) would shy away from recognizing the Confederacy as an independent nation.

I can imagine many of you spilled out of your seats and foaming at the mouth: "For what other reason would Lincoln have gone to war?!!?" The answer will surprise you. In his first Inaugural Address Lincoln stated that his foremost responsibility as president was "to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts". It was under the pretext of not being able to collect the duties and impost taxes from the seceded Southern states that Lincoln initiated military action, not to free the slaves in the Southern states!

It was also Lincoln's rabid nationalism and his theory of a "perpetual" union that lead him to denounce the doctrine of voluntary state association within the Union favored by the Founding Fathers and to "save the Union" through force of arms (The Declaration of Independence, which Lincoln claimed created the "indivisible" union, was itself a act of secession from the British Empire). In this area Lincoln also contradicted his earlier statements.

In an 1848 speech on the floor of the House of Representatives Lincoln stated that "any people anywhere being inclined and having the power have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better". In his first Inaugural Address, a month before the siege of Fort Sumter, Lincoln again supported the concept of secession: "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."

This is only but a minute scratch on the surface of the Civil War. But with the recent outpouring of further "mainstream" historical publications and literature to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war it is vitality important that we as Americans, who claim to embrace truth and reason, take a step back to take an impartial look at the causes and effects of this conflict, which cost over 600,000 men their lives. Many questions remain: Could the South have peacefully and gradually emancipated the slaves just as Britain, France and Spain did? Could the Confederacy and the United States have coexisted peacefully after secession? Could the implementation of the segregationist policies of Jim Crow, fostered in part by the forcing of equality and tolerance at gun point during Reconstruction, have been averted if the South had been left to go its own way?

Sadly, we will never know. Many Americans today who have some knowledge of history rightly sense that the highly charged political climate today is quite similar to that of 1861: an ever expanding federal government, which through crippling taxation and out of control spending has turned most of its citizens into wage slaves, and lead to the erosion of state sovereignty and civil liberties. It is my most fervent hope that we as informed and freedom loving citizens can learn from our mistakes before we are doomed to repeat them.


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