Civil Discourse Now

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The Confederacy was all about slavery.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley stated this week that the Confederate flag stands for “service, sacrifice, and heritage” and lamented that Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church on June 17, 2015, had hijacked the Confederate flag. Ms Haley pointed out that, as governor, shortly after the shootings she ordered the Confederate battle flag removed from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse.
There are misconceptions about the Civil War - still the military conflict in this country’s history in which the most Americans died. Amongst those misconceptions are the reasons why the Civil War Occurred.
The States that seceded did not secede for some “grand cause” encapsulated as “States’ rights.”
First, States do not have “rights.” The Declaration of Independence makes clear: “WE hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed...” Governments have powers derived from the consent of people. To say any government has “rights” is to put that, or any, government on a level equal to human beings.
Second, only four of the states - Georgia (1/29/1861), Mississippi (1/9/1861), South Carolina (12/24/1860) and Texas (2/2/1861)- that seceded from the Union also issued statements why they seceded. Each stated a clear, primary reason - to preserve the institution of slavery.
These statements contain the following:

GEORGIA: “The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery....
“While the subordination and the political and social inequality of the African race was fully conceded by all, it was plainly apparent that slavery would soon disappear from what are now the non-slave-holding States of the original thirteen. The opposition to slavery was then, as now, general in those States and the Constitution was made with direct reference to that fact. But a distinct abolition party was not formed in the United States for more than half a century after the Government went into operation. The main reason was that the North, even if united, could not control both branches of the Legislature during any portion of that time. ...
“Such are the opinions and such are the practices of the Republican party, who have been called by their own votes to administer the Federal Government under the Constitution of the United States. We know their treachery; we know the shallow pretenses under which they daily disregard its plainest obligations. If we submit to them it will be our fault and not theirs. The people of Georgia have ever been willing to stand by this bargain, this contract; they have never sought to evade any of its obligations; they have never hitherto sought to establish any new government; they have struggled to maintain the ancient right of themselves and the human race through and by that Constitution. But they know the value of parchment rights in treacherous hands, and therefore they refuse to commit their own to the rulers whom the North offers us. Why? Because by their declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union; put it under the ban of the Republic in the States where it exists and out of the protection of Federal law everywhere; because they give sanctuary to thieves and incendiaries who assail it to the whole extent of their power, in spite of their most solemn obligations and covenants; because their avowed purpose is to subvert our society and subject us not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives, and our children, and the desolation of our homes, our altars, and our firesides. ...”

MISSISSIPPI: “In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. ...
“That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.
“The hostility to this institution ... has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction. ... It tramples the original equality of the South under foot. ... It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst....”
“The hostility to this institution .. . has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction. ... It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst....”

SOUTH CAROLINA: “The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue. ...
“The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. ...”
“These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection. ...”
“On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
“The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy. ...”

TEXAS: “...Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?”
“The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slaveholding States.”
“By the disloyalty of the Northern States and their citizens and the imbecility of the Federal Government, infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws, to war upon the lives and property of Southern citizens in that territory, and finally, by violence and mob law, to usurp the possession of the same as exclusively the property of the Northern States. ...”
“In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States. ...”

The Civil War, 1861-65, was the product of tensions that grew from long before the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Delegates, at the Convention, to keep slave states in the Union made concessions that institutionalized and protected the sale of human beings as chattel, although neither the word “slave” nor any variation of it appears in the original text. The monetary value of people held in bondage, by estimate of the State of Georgia, was Three billion dollars ($3,000,000,000), and was the largest category of “property” owned in the southern states. People held in bondage, ever since slavery was introduced in this country, rebelled. Those who claimed ownership over other human beings feared slave rebellions. In two states, South Carolina and Mississippi, individuals held in bondage, at various times, outnumbered people who were “free.” Rebellions were a worry to the people who owned others.
If someone flew a Nazi battle flag over a government building, a lot of people would object. And please realize that, prior to our entry into World War II, Nazis had a not-insignificant following here. Genocide, in the form ofchattel slavery, was carried out in this country. Slavery was practiced, and protected by law, for a period longer than since it was abolished.
Neither the Confederacy nor its flag (actually the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia) stands as some concept of “service, sacrifice, and heritage,” in the words of Ms Haley.

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Comment by pogden297 on December 9, 2019 at 11:14am

You don't think the states truly believed they had a right to secede from the Union when they became a part of the U.S.?  I highly doubt the Constitution would have been ratified if states knew going in that they had no option to leave the pact.  In fact, the first effort at secession wasn't the southern states but states in New England during the War of 1812.

Lincoln also expressed support in his inauguration speech for the Corwyn Amendment which would have written into the Constitution that federal government could not end slavery in states that already have that institution.  Lincoln was ready to to concede that slavery not only would continue but that the practice of slavery be written into the Constitution.  Yet a few weeks later the Civil War began anyway.

Only 5% of southerners owned slaves.  The notion that all those Southerners who risked their lives during the war were doing so to protect an institution that did not benefit 95% of them is well, a politically correct, revisionist view of history.  

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