“The Civil War was not fought over slavery but over…..” Whenever someone rolls out this argument, especially in reference to racism in America, they are either intentionally trying to whitewash history or are completely ignorant of it. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. Here is what they wrote in their articles of secession:
“We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.
The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows:
No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.
This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.
The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States. 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…
The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
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.”
South Carolina certainly believed defending the institution of slavery was important enough they made it the central point in their argument for seceding.
The next state to secede was Mississippi:
“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 blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
It 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 refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.
It tramples the original equality of the South under foot.
It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact, which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.
It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.”
Mississippi certainly believed slavery was the main reason they were willing to leave the Union and was pissed the North was advocating for black equality.
How did Georgia feel about slavery and secession?:
“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-slaveholding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property…
By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state. The question of slavery was the great difficulty in the way of the formation of the Constitution. 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.
The North demanded the application of the principle of prohibition of slavery to all of the territory acquired from Mexico and all other parts of the public domain then and in all future time. It was the announcement of her purpose to appropriate to herself all the public domain then owned and thereafter to be acquired by the United States. The claim itself was less arrogant and insulting than the reason with which she supported it. That reason was her fixed purpose to limit, restrain, and finally abolish slavery in the States where it exists. The South with great unanimity declared her purpose to resist the principle of prohibition to the last extremity. This particular question, in connection with a series of questions affecting the same subject, was finally disposed of by the defeat of prohibitory legislation.”
Georgia believed slavery was the central reason for secession, not just slavery in the slave-holding states but expanding the practice to the Western Territories.
What say you 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 slaveholding 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?
We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.”
Texas not only argued they were leaving the Union because of slavery but made a special point of claiming slaves were inferior and have no agency.
The articles of secession from the rest of the Confederacy states are short, pro-forma statements claiming their right to secede. These four states felt the need to go into detail as to why they believed it necessary to fracture the Union. When they did make economic arguments it was always in reference to slavery-either the impact ending slavery would have or the “unfairness” of being treated differently with regard to treaties for being pro-slavery. At the heart of every argument for seceding was their belief that they were entitled to own other people. Period. Full stop.
“The Civil War was not fought over slavery” claim is a lie, an intentional lie to make those who supported the Confederacy then and now feel better about themselves. After the South lost the War and anti-slavery sentiment increased, it became harder to argue that slavery was a legal, moral institution. Those who seceded from the Union, took up arms against their fellow Americans and almost ended the United States as it was known needed to feel good about themselves. They needed a way to claim the damage they caused and the decisions they made to secede were “noble.” Even though slavery was the original reason they gave, they knew they couldn’t use it any longer, especially if the goal was to claim you acted “nobly.” They needed to come up with other, after-the-fact reasons. The most prevalent of these hindsight reasons was/is “states’ rights.” States’ rights makes it sound like they were defending the rights of the people in their state against the big, bad, evil federal government. It made their acts sound “noble.” It was and is complete bullshit. The States’ Rights argument for the Civil War is nothing more than an attempt to whitewash history and vacuum the collective conscious of the South for going to war over their perceived right to own other people as property. Don’t take it from me, take it from the white, Southern politicians who wrote the passages above as to why they felt they needed to secede from the Union.
you expect me
a black woman
to write about peace
on this piece of African paper
on this foreign soil that is my soil
as if i know what peace is
as if i ever will
as if it wont always be
just a complimentary concept to me
alongside “justice for all”
Wake Up America Day. 1917. James Montgomery Flagg.
27 5/8 x 40 in./70.3 x 101.5 cm
In a design far more Modern than its time, Flagg shows us a stylized minuteman in flat planes of red, white, and blue rousing America to the call of Wake Up America Day. Held on the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, President Wilson had declared war on Germany just two weeks prior – and this Day was supposed to be a giant calling to arms of American men to join the fight.