Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alexander Stephens: Slavery Was a Major Cause of the Civil War and the "Cornerstone" of the Confederacy

The argument that slavery was not a major cause of the Civil War has been around for 140 years; it was started by the people who got their asses handed to them. It's easy to understand why -- I mean, in Mr. Ulysses S. Grant's words, it was "the worst cause for which anyone ever fought" at that time. I suppose they just felt guilty, and needed pseudo-history to settle their consciences.

Most people in the south have long ago gotten over this and moved on, but every once in a while, you hear that slavery was -- oh yes -- such a small small, very small part of why they fought.

A nice piece of evidence against this bullshit is the speech given by the Vice President of the Confederate States, Alexander Stephens, on March 21, 1861. This "Cornerstone Speech" is worth reading in full which you can find here.

I've bolded the key parts. I quoted extensively so no one can accuse me of "taking it out of context":
"But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
The Confederate constitution was modeled on the US Constitution, except, as Stephens so proudly described, it was the first constitution in history to fully legitimize slavery in the founding documents of that would-be nation.

As I've said before, I love when facts get in the way of a good argument.
Jefferson Davis: "We Fight not for slavery, but for independence" Clearly, we all couldn't agree what that blasted War was over. But so glad we're all one big happy family again!
Untangling the social and economic causes is still a challenge; the wealth of the social elites in the south was built upon slave labor, and the economic costs of the tariff system to the south was a cause of great resentment.

But remember, there was nothing "civil" about that there war!
What is being missed here was in in the Feb 1865 meeting with Lincoln and Confederate Peace Commisioners Seward stated "if the Confederate States would...abandon the war, they could of themselves defeat this [Thirteenth] amendment [and keep their slaves] by voting it down as members of the Union". NOTE: This was the Second 13TH. Amendment not the first.

Speaking of the First 13TH. Amendment the Corwin Amendment did not Lincolne state from the begining of the war until his "death" that the South could and should return to the Union and ensure the passage of the 13TH amendment? Again this refers to the first 13TH amendment, the Corwin Amendment.

"If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that".
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