Browsing "Bringing on the War"

War Clouds in Late 1832

President Andrew Jackson, in early November 1832, sent a spy to South Carolina to monitor the nullification forces in South Carolina, and “transferred several military companies to Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney” in preparation for war against the State. Though using these measures to elevate his prestige, Jackson also urged Congress to lower the existing tariff and “attacked the protective system for the first time.” He had come to the view that like the national bank he opposed for making “the rich richer and the potent more powerful,” the Northern protective tariffs accomplished the same.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War Clouds in Late 1832

“[Governor Robert Y.] Hayne’s [inaugural] speech was nothing short of a full-blown statement of State supremacy . . .”Fellow citizens, This is Our Own – Our Native Land,” declared Hayne.

“It is the soil of CAROLINA which has been enriched by the precious blood of our ancestors, shed in defense of those rights and liberties, which we are bound, by every tie divine and human, to transmit unimpaired to our posterity. It is here that we have been cherished in youth and sustained in manhood . . . here repose the honored bones of our Fathers . . . here, when our earthly pilgrimage is over, we hope to sink to rest, on the bosom of our common mother. Bound to our country by such sacred, and endearing ties – let others desert her, if they can, let them revile her, if they will – let them give aid and countenance to her enemies, if they may – but for us, we will STAND OR FALL WITH CAROLINA.”

The [South Carolina] legislature gave Governor Hayne authority to accept military volunteers, to draft any Carolinian between eighteen and forty-five (including unionists), and to call out the State militia. The legislators approved a $200,000 appropriation for purchasing arms and authorized Hayne to draw and additional $200,000 from a contingent fund.

On December 26 Hayne issued his proclamation asking for volunteers; by the beginning of 1833 the governor and his district commanders were raising, equipping and training an army. Soldiers constantly drilled in the streets, and for a season Carolina uniforms and blue cockades were standard fare in churches and at tea parties. Over 25,000 men – more than had voted for nullification in the first place – volunteered to defend South Carolina against Jackson’s armies.

[Former Governor James Hamilton’s military preparations] had a chance to win an immediate victory over the two badly exposed federal forts. Fort Moultrie had been built on Sullivan’s Island, and since South Carolina owned part of the island, Hamilton’s volunteers could lay siege to the fort. Castle Pinckney, erected on an island only a mile out from Gadsden Wharf, could be battered down by the nullifiers’ heavy cannon.

The necessity for a strategy of defense, however, weakened the possibility of quick victory. The governor, commanding his army with commendable restraint and caution, also knew that a concentration of troops might precipitate a needless war. Hayne insisted that volunteers train at home . . . [but with] the entire army in the uplands, Charleston would be vulnerable to a concentrated federal attack.

Hayne attempted to solve the dilemma with his mounted-minutemen plan. The governor asked each district to appoint a small cavalry unit which could race to Charleston on a moment’s notice. “If in each district only one hundred such men could be secured,” wrote Hayne, “we would have the means of throwing 2,500 of the elite of the whole State upon a given point in three or four days.”

(Prelude to Civil War, The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836, William W. Freehling, Oxford University Press, 1965, pp. 264-266; 275-277)

To Stay the Tide of Bloodshed

At least six efforts were made, most of Southern origin, to settle the political differences with the North peacefully. From the Crittenden Compromise of late 1860, the Washington Peace Conference led by former President John Tyler, the Confederate commissioners being sent to Washington in March 1861, to the Hampton Roads Conference of February 1865, the South tried to avert war and end the needless bloodshed. It was clear that one side wanted peace, the other wanted war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

To Stay the Tide of Bloodshed

“Carl Schurz, a notorious agitator and disunionist from Wisconsin, telegraphed to the governor of that State: “Appoint commissioners to Washington conference – myself one – to strengthen our side. By “our side” he meant those who were opposed to any peace measures to save the country from war and preserve the Union.

The Republicans wanted to make as wide as possible the gulf between the North and the South. This peace Conference, therefore, was a failure, because the abolitionists were determined there should be no peace.

In the Senate, Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, made an urgent appeal to the Republicans “to assure the people of the South that you do intend to calmly consider all propositions which they may make, and to recognize their rights which the Union was established to secure.” But the Republican Senators remained mute.

Mr. Davis held that if the Crittenden Resolutions were adopted, the Southern States would recede their secession. He also said that the South had never asked nor desired that the Union founded by its forefathers should be torn asunder, but that the government as was organized should be administers in “purity and truth.” Senator Davis, with mildness and dignity of voice, also said, “There will be peace if you so will it; and you may bring disaster upon the whole country if you thus will have it. And if you will have it thus . . . we will vindicate and defend the rights we claim.”

As the year of 1860 was going out, all reasonable hope of reconciliation for the South departed. The Southern leaders then called a conference. What was to be done? All their proposals of compromise, looking for peace within the Union, had failed. It was evident that the Republican party in Congress was to wait until Mr. Lincoln came in on March 4th. But efforts for peace were not given up, even after the war began, but were earnestly continued in an effort to stay the tide of bloodshed.

(Efforts for Peace in the Sixties, essay by Mrs. John H. Anderson of Raleigh, Confederate Veteran Magazine, August 1931, page 299)

New England Commerce Born of the Slave Trade

By 1750, Rhode Island had surpassed Liverpool as the center of the triangular transatlantic slave trade, with British shipbuilders complaining to Parliament that New Englanders were luring their shipwrights away with promises of high pay.  Yankee notions and rum were shipped to Africa to be traded for slaves, thence to the West Indies to trade slaves for molasses, then returning to New England to make more rum for future slave voyages. The American South had no involvement in this inhumane and illicit traffic.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Commerce Born of the Slave Trade

“The planting of the commercial States of North America began with the colony of Puritan Independents at Plymouth, in 1620, which was subsequently enlarged into the State of Massachusetts. The other trading colonies, Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as New Hampshire (which never had an extensive shipping interest) were offshoots of Massachusetts.

They partook of the same characteristics and pursuits; and hence, the example of the parent colony is taken here as a fair representation of them. The first ship from America, which embarked in the African slave trade, was the Desire, Captain Pierce, of Salem; and this was among the first vessels ever built in the colony.

The promptitude with which the “Puritan Fathers” embarked in this business may be comprehended, when it is stated that the Desire sailed upon her voyage in June, 1637. The first feeble and dubious foothold was gained by white man at Plymouth less than seventeen years before; and as is well known, many years were expended by the struggle of the handful of settlers for existence.

So that it may be correctly said, that the commerce of New England was born of the slave trade; as its subsequent prosperity was largely founded upon it. To understand the growth of the New England slave trade, two connected topics must be a little illustrated. The first of these is the enslaving of Indians. The pious “Puritan Fathers” found it convenient to assume that they were God’s chosen Israel, and the pagans about them were Amalek and Amorites. They hence deduced their righteous title to exterminate or enslave the Indians, whenever they became troublesome.

As soon as the Indian wars began, we find the captives enslaved. The ministers and magistrates solemnly authorized the enslaving of the wives and posterity of their enemies for the crimes of the fathers and husbands in daring to defend their own soil. In 1677, the General Court of Massachusetts ordered the enslaving of the Indian youths or girls “of such as had been in hostility with the colony, or had lived among its enemies in the time of war.”

By means of these proceedings, the number of Indian servants became so large, that they were regarded as dangerous to the Colony. They were, moreover, often untamable in temper…Hence the prudent and thrifty saints saw the advantage of exporting them to the Bermudas, Barbadoes, and other islands, in exchange for Negroes and merchandise; and this traffick, being much encouraged, and finally enjoined, by the authorities, became so extensive as to substitute Negroes for Indian slaves, almost wholly in the Colony. Among the slaves thus deported were the favourite wife and little son of the heroic King Philip.”

(A Defence of Virginia, and Through Her, The South, Robert Louis Dabney, E.J. Hale & Son, 1867, pp. 32-35)

Abolitionists Growing More Warlike

The crisis of the Union in the 1850s was caused by an increasing willingness of radicalized Northerners to use force, especially fomenting slave insurrection in the South, to end the African slavery inherited from the British. Rather than seek a practical and peaceful means of ending the institution — from which their own section had profited greatly through the slave trade and cotton milling — abolitionists preached fire, sword and anarchy. On the latter, anarchist Ralph Waldo Emerson admitted “I own I have little esteem for governments.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Abolitionists Growing More Warlike

“Emerson welcomed the fact of anarchy as a confirmation of his belief that men could live without institutions. “I am glad,” he said, “to see that the terror at disunion and anarchy is disappearing.” John Brown’s raid raised even more extravagant hopes for the triumph of transcendental anarchism. “ . . . John Brown was an idealist. He believed in his ideas to that extent that he existed to put them all into action . . .” said Emerson at a John Brown meeting . . . The example of Brown was just what the country needed [and Henry David] Thoreau’s sentiments were almost identical.

Emersonian transcendentalism [had] . . . changed from a contemplative philosophy into an activist creed. The “American Scholar” was no longer a withdrawn and harmless figure, reading the eternal truths of “Nature.” He was John Brown, an idealist whose inner voice commanded him to shed blood. Emerson had always hoped that he would one day see “the transformation of genius into practical power.”

During the Kansas conflict, [William Lloyd] Garrison remained true to his [pacifist] principles by having no truck with those who were enlisting in the free-State forces or sending arms to help them. Yet a curious note crept into his 1856 criticisms of the Kansas effort. If someone had to be armed, he protested, it should be the slaves in the South rather than the northern whites in the territories. If the resort to force had to be made, he seemed to be saying, it should be on such a scale as to bring down the whole slaveholding structure.

Wendell Phillips compromised himself more directly by donating money to a Kansas rifle fund in 1855 [and the] nonviolent [abolitionist] ranks were thinning. By 1858, Garrison was bemoaning the fact that abolitionists were “growing more and more warlike, and more disposed to repudiate the principles of peace, more and more disposed to talk about “finding a joint in the neck of the tyrant, and breaking that neck, “cleaving tyrants down from the crown to the groin,” with a sword which is carnal, and so inflaming one another with the spirit of violence and for a bloody work.” He feared that this thirst for violence would destroy “the moral power” of the abolitionists.

At a meeting for the observance of Brown’s martyrdom, Garrison endorsed Brown in a way that seemed amazingly inconsistent: “As a peace man – an “ultra” peace man – I am prepared to say” “Success to every slave insurrection at the South.” God, it seems, had decided that slavery must come to a violent end. A slave rebellion was not something Garrison was advocating, it was simply “God’s method of dealing retribution upon the head of the tyrant.” The implication was that although John Brown had violated holy commandments, he was nevertheless an instrument of divine judgment – like fire or pestilence. No responsibility rested with the abolitionists; it was the slaveholders themselves who had invited the wrath of God by refusing to heed the moral appeals of thirty years of antislavery agitation.”

(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, pp. 39-42)

A Court Party Living Off the Farmers

The Founders referred to their creation as a republic and built in safeguards against the rise of democracy, which they saw as mob rule. Professor Donald Livingston instructs us that the United States is not a republic, but a federation of republics — and the federation itself, cannot be referred to as a “republic.”

Jefferson’s revolution of 1800 election temporarily ended the Federalist Party’s quest to mold the United States into an aristocratic and centralized nation, though encroachments of federal power upon the States continued through the Supreme Court (“sappers and miners”), centralized banking, special interest protectionism — and finally the creation of the States, the federal agent — waging war upon States that rightly opposed the encroachments. The new Republican Party of Lincoln was an incarnation of Adam’s Federalist Party, and empowered by the protectionist and banking interests of New England.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Court Party Living Off the Farmers

“Any system of government, from a democracy to an aristocracy to a monarchy, is capable of drowning its people in tyranny. “I see no infallible criterion for defining the nature of government, except its acts,” wrote John Taylor of Caroline in “Construction Construed and Constitutions Vindicated,” (1820). “If the acts of a monarchy, aristocracy and democracy are the same, these forms of government are to a nation essentially the same also. To contend for forms only, is to fight for shadows.”

How then, should we define the nature of a republic? The word itself was batted around by all the Founding Fathers, but its use varied. John Adams, who favored aristocracy and “balanced power,” wrote that the only “rational” definition of republic is “aa government, in which all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws.”

Taylor assailed this sort of “republic,” which puts its faith in the “rule of law.” Answering Adams in 1814 (An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States), he asked how this was any different from the government from which they had declared independence. What guarantees that the law to which everyone is “equally subject” is just – or good?

Adam’ imagined government would counter [inherent financial injustice] with a “balance of power,” by which each class, emerging “naturally” according to a divine distribution of talent, would find equal representation. But do such classes arise “by nature,” according to “God’s design?” Taylor argues that Adams’ classes are artificial – special interests created by laws and sustained by government. (Government’s creation of a standing army, for example, creates a “soldier class,” a military interest. Central banking, creates a banking interest. Etc.)

And man’s lust for power being what it is, these artificial classes would (did) seek to advance their standing among the others, if not dominate them altogether even; even taking the moral high ground for doing just so. “One tyrant may thank God that he is not another tyrant.”

During the infant days of the United States, the means by which the federal government was creating this phony aristocracy was, according to Taylor, its control of the economy, through central banking and taxation – unjust transfers of wealth from one interest to another.

“Wealth, established by law, violates the principle, which induced the American states to wage war with Britain. It separates the imposer from the payer of taxes. No nation would tax itself to enrich an order or separate interest. When therefore a nation is so taxed, it must proceed from the power of the order itself, which is invariably the imposer and receiver of the tax; whilst the rest of the nation is the payer.”

For Taylor, a true, sustainable republic is not characterized by a “balance of power” among artificial interest groups, but by self-government. “The distinguishing superiorities of our policy, are, the sovereignty of the people; a republican government, or a government producing publick or national good; and a thorough system of responsible representation.”

Who, then, were these sovereign “people,” and what is this “good.” The people are farmers. At the time of the War of Independence, 95 percent of Americans were engaged in farming. The prospect of owning a farm was what made the colonies attractive in the first place.

But this life had been threatened by a distant [British] central government that was cash-strapped and weary from financing its own imperial adventures. The small colonial farmer found it difficult to hold onto his land when the crown began to manipulate the money supply. Slapping taxes on his and stifling free trade only made things worse.

The Federalists’ “consolidated republic” threatened to do just the same. Federalist fiscal policy created new interests, a new Court Party of paper wealth. These sundry interests could not live without the farmers, yet they must live off them.

According to Jeffersonian tradition, of which Taylor was the greatest exemplar, the farmer is capable of self-government. His is the only vocation that is “natural” – that is not a creation of government. He depends upon God to sustain him . . . [and] he takes up his arms to defend hearth and home in the local militia, and the mantle of statesman when called upon – all the while eager, as Taylor was, to get back to his land, to the plow.

This is the true republican ideal [and] . . . its people are defined not by party affiliation or political law but by the mores majorum, the “customs of the fathers.”

(A Share in the Patria, Aaron D. Wolf, Chronicles, May 2009, excerpts, pp. 21-22)

Achieving Southern Destiny

Washington warned that sectional animosity would endanger the new Union; by 1826 both Jefferson and Adams deplored the loss of republican direction provided by the revolutionary generation. The tariff controversy of the early 1830s ignited the fire that would not be quelled until 1865, though the Constitution and the Union were destroyed in the process.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Achieving Southern Destiny

“[Henry] Clay’s campaign for his “American System” drew fire mainly from the South Carolinians.

In 1827, Robert J. Turnbull, under the pseudonym of Brutus, published a series of thirty-three articles in the Charleston Mercury, and promptly issued them in a pamphlet entitled “The Crisis: Or Essays on the Usurpation of the Federal Government,” which he dedicated “to the people of the “Plantation States” as a testimony of respect, for their rights of sovereignty.”

Turnbull vehemently urged the people of the South to face the facts, to realize that the North was beginning to use its control of Congress for Southern oppression by protective tariffs and otherwise; and he proposed as a remedy that South Carolina should promptly interpose her sovereignty, and safeguard Southern interests, by vetoing such congressional acts as she should decide to be based upon Federal usurpations and intended for Northern advantage at the cost of Southern oppression.

“. . . William H. Trescott’s “The Position and Course of the South” [was] an embodiment of the soundest realization of the sectional conditions of the Southern section in the closing decade of the ante-bellum period. The author, a leading, experienced, conservative citizen of South Carolina, states in his preface, dated Oct. 12, 1850, that his purpose is to unify the widely separated parts of the South.

He says his views are not new, but they are characteristically Southern: “We are beginning to think for ourselves, the first act toward acting for ourselves.” The essay begins with an analysis of industrial contrasts.

The political majority of the North represents labor; that of the South, capital; the contrast is violent. Free labor hates slave labor, and it will overturn the system if it can. The two sections with many contrasting and conflicting characteristics are combined under the United States Constitution, but they are essentially irreconcilable. Even in foreign relations the North is jealous of foreign powers for commercial and industrial reasons, while Southern industry is not competitive with, but complementary to European industry and commerce, and the South, if a nation by itself, would be upon most cordial terms with foreign powers.

“The United States government under the control of Northern majorities must reflect Northern sentiment, sustain Northern interests, impersonate Northern power. Even if it be conceded that the South has no present grievance to complain of, it is the part of wisdom to consider the strength and relations of the sections, and face the question, what is the position of the South? In case our rights should be attacked, where is our constitutional protection? The answer is obvious.

But one course is open to her honor, and that is secession and the formation of an independent confederacy. There are many men grown old in the Union who would feel an honest and pardonable regret at the thought of its dissolution. They have prided themselves on the success of the great American experiment in political self-government, and feel that the dissolution of the Union would proclaim a mortifying failure. Not so.

The vital principle of political liberty is representative government, and when Federal arrangements are discarded, that lives in original vigor. Who does not consider the greatest triumph of the British constitution the facility and vigor with which, under slight modifications, it developed into the great republican government under which we have accomplished our national progress. And so it will be with the United States Constitution.

We believe that Southern interests demand an independent government. We believe that the time has come when this can be established temperately, wisely, strongly. But in effecting this separation we would not disown our indebtedness, our gratitude to the past. The Union has spread Christianity, fertilized a wilderness, enriched the world’s commerce wonderfully, spread Anglo-Saxon civilization. “It has given to the world sublime names, which the world will not willingly let die — heroic actions which will light the eyes of a far-coming enthusiasm. It has achieved its destiny. Let us achieve ours.”

(History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States (Vol. VII), Ulrich B. Phillips, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 193-198)

 

Two Cultures of 1860 America

A twenty-two year old Virginian in 1861, George Benjamin West wrote his memoirs thirty years after the war. He noted during his State’s early occupation by the enemy the prevalence of German rather than American soldiers in blue – and the same in 1865 as he rode through occupied Richmond. His observations reveal two distinct cultures in the United States of 1860.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Two Cultures of 1860 America

“Our servants stayed with us several weeks [after the capitulation]. I intended to get a parole, but father insisted that I could go about much freer and would not be subjected to so many interruptions by the guards around Old Point if I took the oath.

I went up to take the oath, and General Joseph R. Anderson, CSA, of the Tredegar Iron Works, a splendid looking man and soldier, was ahead of me, and I heard the questions asked him, and saw the manner of the (Federal) lieutenant, who felt his importance, and I became so indignant with the lieutenant and sorry for the general that when my time came I did not feel the humiliation and shame I expected.

Look around at the sight now. No people ever recuperated in such a short time. This whole section soon became a garden spot, and though most of the people had to lose even their land for security debts (often for the hire of slaves before the war), yet though not accustomed and often not really able to work, they made the best of the situation and determined if possible to start in life again and show the Yankees that they could live without their aid, and even without slaves or property.

I think the South believed that the North opposed slavery not so much because of their [abolitionists’] love for humanity as they pretended but because they were envious of the prosperity of the South and hated the aristocracy because they knew they were superior, and felt that their own mean pecuniary dealings and money-making propensity was condemned.

The South did not try to make money because money was the means by which they could elevate themselves, because they looked more to a man’s character and behavior than to his bank account.

The North had to work harder and live more economically to get along, and probably on this account they would take advantages and do little mean tricks which were looked upon by us as wanting in honor and honesty, and gentlemanly instincts.

The better classes of the North never visited the South, nor were the Southern people anxious to mingle with them at the North, so we grew wider apart every year. They hating and envying us more and more, and we looked down upon them.”

(When the Yankees Came, Civil War and Reconstruction on the Virginia Peninsula, George Benjamin West, Park Rouse, Jr., editor, The Dietz Press, 1977, pp. 97-98)

Theories of Conflict and Higher Law

Many in the antebellum South viewed the theories advanced by abolitionists and the new Republican Party as threatening the Union they wished to remain in and forcing their withdrawal. As South Carolina was threatened with coercion in 1832 over nullification, those in the South wondered why the Northern States which nullified federal laws were not threatened with coercion – which well might have impelled those Northern States to secede.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Theories of Conflict and Higher Law

“But whatever the real issue between the sections in the territorial dispute, there was no doubt, in the South at least, of the sectional objectives in defending or in opposing two new theories developed in the North during the decade of the fifties.

These were the theories of the “irrepressible conflict” and of the “higher law.”

Both were considered by the South to be incompatible [with the United States Constitution] . . . both were soundly denounced as a direct infringement of the principle of constitutional guarantees.

The theory of the “irrepressible conflict” was the joint product of Abraham Lincoln’s address before the Republican State Convention in Illinois, delivered on June 16, 1858, and of William Seward’s “Irrepressible Conflict” speech delivered at Rochester, New York, October 25, 1858.

This theory was denounced by every legitimate agency in the South from county assemblies to State conventions. On December 2, 1859, the General Assembly of Tennessee resolved “that we recognize in the recent outbreak at Harper’s Ferry the natural prints of this treasonable, “irrepressible conflict” doctrine put forward by the great head of the Black Republican party and echoed by his subordinates.”

The second of these theories — the theory of the higher law – [was championed by] William Seward of New York.

This theory doubtless sprang from the ranks of the abolitionists in the latter thirties, for as early as June 15, 1841, Representative Kenneth Raynor of North Carolina attacked the position of John Quincy Adams on the slavery question because he “has thrown aside law and Constitution, and has dared to put the issue of this question upon the high and impregnable ground of the Divine law”, a position which Raynor declared “sweeps away everything like human compact and rests the mutual rights of men on what the imagination of fanaticism may picture to itself as a Divine requirement.”

In February 1851, Robert Toombs discovered that a “great question is rising up before us [to] become a “fixed fact” in American politics. It is . . . sometimes called the higher law, in antagonism to our constitutional compact. If the first (i.e, higher law) succeeds, we have no other safety except in secession; if the latter (i.e, the constitutional compact succeeds) “liberty and Union, may be forever one and inseparable.”

Before the end of the following year, the “fixed fact” had found definite expression from the pen of William Hosmer in a volume of some two hundred pages entitled, The Higher Law. Within those pages, the author makes the following contention: “Men have no right to make a constitution which sanctions slavery, and it is the imperative duty of all good men to break it, when made . . . the fact that a law is constitutional amounts to nothing, unless it is also pure . . .”

On February 18, 1861, Fulton Anderson, commissioner from Mississippi to Virginia, warned the Virginia Convention that an “infidel fanaticism, crying out for a higher law than that of the Constitution . . . has been enlisted in this strife”; and in the Alabama Convention of that year L.M. Stone maintained that the “triumph of a Higher Law party, pledged to the destruction of our Constitutional Rights, forced us to dissolve our political connection with [the] hostile States.”

(The South As A Conscious Minority, Jesse T. Carpenter, New York University, 1930, pp 157-160)

Moral Tormentors

Moral Tormentors

“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of it victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.”  C.S. Lewis

 

 

Unfounded Fears of Slavery Expansion

Lincoln receives insufficient credit for his part in defeating the compromise measures of 1860-61 which would have averted war, whose effects are still felt today. The author below asserts that slavery had reached its natural limits and was “a cumbersome and expensive system [that] could show profits only as long as it could find plenty of rich land to cultivate” and a market that would take the product. He adds that “the free farmers in the North who dreaded its further spread had nothing to fear. Even those who wished [slavery] destroyed had only to wait a little while – perhaps a generation, probably less. It was summarily destroyed at a frightful cost to the whole country and one-third of the nation was impoverished for forty years.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unfounded Fears of Slavery Expansion

“In the forefront of that group of issues which, for more than a decade before the secession of the cotton States, kept the Northern and Southern sections of the United States in irritating controversy and a growing sense of enmity, was the question of whether the federal government should permit and protect the expansion of slavery into the western territories . . . It was upon this particular issue that a new and powerful sectional party appeared in 1854, that the majority of the Secessionists of the cotton States predicated their action in 1860-1861, and it was upon this also that President-elect Lincoln forced the defeat of the compromise measures in the winter of 1860-61.

It seems safe to say that had this question been eliminated or settled amicably, there would have been no secession and no Civil War . . .

Disregarding the stock arguments – constitutional, economic, social and what-not – advanced by either group, let us examine afresh the real problem involved. Would slavery, if legally permitted to do so, have taken possession of the territories or of any considerable portion of them?

The causes of the expansion of slavery westward from the South Atlantic coast are now well-understood. The industrial revolution [in the North and in England] and the opening of world markets had continually increased the consumption and demand for raw cotton, while the abundance of fertile and cheap cotton lands in the Gulf States had steadily lured cotton farmers and planters westward. Where large-scale production was [possible, the enormous demand for a steady supply of labor had made the use of slaves inevitable, for a sufficient supply of free labor was unprocurable on the frontier . . . and slave labor was usually not profitable in growing grain.

This expansion of the institution was in response to economic stimuli . . . [and the] movement would go on as long as far as suitable cotton lands were to be found or as long as there was a reasonable expectation of profit from slave labor, provided, of course, that no political barrier was encountered.

But by 1849-50 . . . and by the time the new Republican party was formed to check the further expansion of slavery, the westward march of the cotton plantation was evidently slowing down. The only possibility of a further westward extension of the cotton belt was in Texas. In that alone was the frontier line of cotton and slavery still advancing . . .

In New Mexico and Arizona, Mexican labor is cheaper than Negro labor, as has always been the case since the acquisition of the region from Mexico. It was well-understood by sensible men, North and South, in 1850 that soil, climate, and native labor would form a perpetual bar to slavery in the vast territory then called New Mexico. [By 1860], ten years after the territory had been thrown open to slavery, showed not a single slave; and this was also true of Colorado and Nevada. Utah, alone of all these territories, was credited with any slaves at all . . . [and] the census of 1860 showed two slaves in Kansas and fifteen in Nebraska.

The Northern anti-slavery men held that a legal sanction of slavery in the territories would result in the extension of the institution and domination of the free North by the slave power; prospective immigrants in particular feared that they would never be able to get homes in this new West. Their fears were groundless; but in their excited state of mind they could see neither the facts clearly nor consider them calmly.

In the cold facts of the situation, there was no longer any basis for excited sectional controversy over slavery extension . . . [but] the public mind had so long been concerned with the debate that it could not see that the issue had ceased to have validity. In the existing state of the popular mind, therefore, there was still abundant opportunity for the politician to work to his own ends, to play upon prejudice and passion and fear.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 86-91)