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The Official, Politically-Correct Cause of the 'Civil War'
6 years ago
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The memo has gone out. Since 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the start of the War to Prevent Southern Independence the Lincoln Cult, aided and abetted by the many worshippers of the centralized, bureaucratic, Leviathan state that he founded, has been hard at work since the first week of January endlessly repeating the politically-correct version of the one sole cause theory of the "Civil War."


Unlike all other wars in human history, the "Civil War" is said to have one and only one cause. This was not always the case; university courses on the war during the 1960s and ’70s frequently used as a text Kenneth Stampp’s The Causes of the Civil War.

Stampp was a former president of the American Historical Association. His scholarship has been replaced with a-historical political correctness on today’s college campuses.


Supposed "proof" of the "one sole cause" theory is that when the Southern states seceded in 1860-61, some Southern politicians defended the institution of slavery. Therefore, the story goes, slavery was the sole cause of the war. The not-so-implicit assumptions behind this assertion are the following: 1) Lincoln was about to abolish slavery "with the stroke of a pen" as soon as he took the oath of office; 2) Southerners understood this; therefore, Southern secession amounted to kidnapping of the slaves; and 3) Lincoln launched an invasion of the South to free the kidnapped slaves. This is the only way in which Southern secession could have necessitated war. Ready any of Harry Jaffa’s books if you want "verification" of this "official view."


Everything about this politically-correct fantasy is patently false, regardless of how many times it is repeated in the New York Times and Washington Post. Some Southern politicians did indeed defend slavery, but not as strongly as Abraham Lincoln did in his first inaugural address, where he supported the enshrinement of Southern slavery explicitly in the U.S. Constitution (the "Corwin Amendment") for the first time ever. Coming from the president of the United States, this was the strongest defense of slavery ever made by an American politician.


Some Southern politicians did say that their society was based on white supremacy, but so did Abraham Lincoln and most other Northern politicians. "I as much as any man want the superior position to belong to the white race," Lincoln said in a debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858. When Lincoln opposed the extension of slavery into the new territories (but not Southern slavery), he gave the standard Northern white supremacist reason: We want the territories to be reserved "for free white labor," he said. The Lincoln cultists can quote Alexander Stephens’ "cornerstone" speech all they want, but the truth is that Abraham Lincoln, and most of the leaders of the Republican Party, were in total agreement with Stephens. White supremacy was as much (if not more of) a "cornerstone" of Northern society as it was of Southern society in the 1860s.


The abolition societies of the North never claimed more than two percent of the Northern adult population as members. Lincoln was never an abolitionist, distanced himself from them politically, and even boasted in a speech in New York City that "we have abolitionists in Illinois; we shot one the other day." All of this makes it extremely unlikely that anyone who voted for Lincoln in the 1860 election did so because they thought he would end Southern slavery (which of course the Republican Party Platform of 1860 did not promise).



6 years ago

More importantly, secession in no way necessitates war, regardless of what the reasons for secession are. The reasons for secession, and the reasons why there was a war, are two entirely separate issues. When New Englanders openly and publicly plotted to secede for fourteen years after Thomas Jefferson’s election, culminating in the 1814 secession convention in Hartford, Connecticut, neither President Jefferson nor President Madison (or anyone else) said one word about the appropriate response to a Northern-state secession being "invasion," "force," and "bloodshed." These are the words Lincoln used in his first inaugural address to describe what would happen in any Southern state that seceded.


It is unlikely that anyone even dreamed of invading Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island and bombing and burning Boston, Hartford and Providence into a smoldering ruin while murdering thousands of New Englanders, women and children included, if New England were to secede. Indeed, when Jefferson was asked what would happen if New England seceded, he said in a letter that New Englanders, like all other Americans "would all be our children" and he would wish them all well. More recently, all of the Soviet republics, and all of Eastern and Central Europe peacefully seceded from the Soviet Union. Secession does not necessitate war.


No American president had the power in the nineteenth century to abolish slavery "with the stroke of a pen." The slaves were slaves before Southern secession, and they were slaves after secession. Indeed, as Alexander Stephens once correctly remarked, slavery was more secure in the union than out of it because of the Fugitive Slave Clause, which Lincoln strongly supported, and because of the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision.


No respectable historian would argue that Lincoln invaded the South to free the slaves. Even his Emancipation Proclamation was only a "war measure" that would have become defunct if the war ended the next day – and it was written so as to avoid freeing any slaves since it only applied to "rebel territory." Both Lincoln and Congress announced publicly that their purpose was not to disturb slavery but to "save the union," a union that they actually destroyed philosophically by destroying its voluntary nature, as established by the founders. All states, North and South, became wards or appendages of the central government in the post-1865 era.


What Lincoln did say very clearly about war in his first inaugural address was that it was his duty "to collect the duties and imposts," but "beyond that there will no be any invasion of any state . . ." That is, if Southern secession made it impossible for Washington, D.C. to "collect the duties and imposts" (i.e., tariffs on imports, which had just been more than doubled two days earlier), then there will be an invasion. He followed through with this threat, and that is why there was a war that ended up killing 670,000 Americans, including some 50,000 Southern civilians, while maiming for life more than a million.


Secession does not necessitate war; nor was war necessary to end slavery. The rest of the world (including all of the Northern states ended slavery peacefully in the nineteenth century, as James Powell documents and describes in his outstanding book, Greatest Emancipations: How the West Ended Slavery.


Recently by Thomas DiLorenzo: Another Big Lincoln Lie Exposed

6 years ago

One of the bloodiest wars in our history - as a matter of fact, it has been called the bloodiest war in our history.


There were no doctors on the field - not really.  The man with the most education in a unit was often appointed doctor.  If a man was wounded in the arm or leg, the standard treatment was whiskey, followed by amputation with whatever implements were available.  Forget sterilization.  Then, everyone would just hope that the wounded individual didn't bleed to death.


Soldiers on both sides ate hardtack, a combination of flour and water.  Often, it had been made many months earlier, was filled with bugs, and was the main food source.  Soldiers on both sides, especially the Confederate side, were emaciated by the end of the war. 


The Civil War even had female spies.  This is Belle Boyd, a Confederate spy:



6 years ago

Great thread, Katii. Really great info here.   I think everything about the Civil War and the Lincoln presidency is fascinating - and even a little eerie. 


 Lincoln had a precognitive dream about his own death.  He saw himself in a coffin in the Capitol Rotunda.  Then there is the Lincoln Train and all the spooky stories about how it reappears at night.  Not that I believe that - but this is a legend that persists to this day in some parts of America.


I always learned that the Civil War was really brought about by the fact that the south had formed it's own trade agreements with foreign countries, most notably, France.  This enraged the Federal government.  They didn't want the south acting like an independent country.   The fact that the country was reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and reacting strongly to it was also a factor, but a lesser one.



This post was modified from its original form on 12 Apr, 5:51
6 years ago

Yes, this is a great thread.  And it is funny that I had not noticed the inconsistencies.  Yes, we learned that the Civil War ended slavery.  IMPLIED but no explicitly stated was that slavery was the cause of the war.  And yet we also learned that Lincoln had mixed feelings. I do remember learning about that. 

6 years ago

The biography sounds fascinating, and I love conspiracy theories about the assassination.  I recently saw a documentary about a woman, Mary Surratt, who was hanged for Lincoln's assassination, because her son had been connected with John Wilkes Booth.

5 years ago

The Real Reason for the 'Civil War'


As an editor at large, I get to be considerably at large and so I am in fact living these days across the Cooper River from Charleston, South Carolina. That was the place, as you may remember, where the phenomenon erroneously called the “Civil War” began some 150 years ago, and where some folks now are determined to remember what went on and some others are determined to protest whatever went on then and is going on now.

It seems to have become something of a national issue, and being in a good position to take a look at the events this spring commemorating the sesquicentennial of what they like to call “the late unpleasantness,” I thought I’d try to shed a little light amid the considerable murkiness of ignorance all around.

But first I think it’s important to remember that the secession that took place 150 years ago was in a grand old American tradition. The American “Revolution” was, in fact, a war of secession – 13 colonies breaking away from the British Empire – not a war of conquest, and most of the Founding Fathers understood that to be a given right when they created the Articles and then the Constitution. The creation of the Republic of Vermont in 1777 was another act of secession, from both New Hampshire and New York. And just 25 years after the new nation was born, representatives from all New England states (only one from Vermont) met at a convention in Hartford to consider secession from the United States if their grievances against President Madison’s conduct of the war of 1812 and limitations on Atlantic trade were not satisfied; in the event, they did not vote for secession, but its spirit was in the air.


So in that context, let’s make clear that what began 150 years ago this April was not a true civil war, except in the sense that there were two sides in one country, because there was no attempt by one side to take over the other, as in the more familiar English civil war between Parliament and Charles I. The South did not want to run the Union, it wanted out of the Union. That makes it a war of secession (similar to the war of 1775-1783) or, as various forms have it, the War of Southern Secession, the War Between the States, the War of Northern Aggression, or the War to Prevent Southern Independence – all more accurate than “Civil War.”


Next, let’s see who really began it. The first conflict had to do with Washington’s unwillingness to give up Federal forts and bases in states that had declared their independence, or even to negotiate some kind of settlement. After declaring independence in December 1860, South Carolina sent two delegations to Washington with the express purpose of working out terms, including monetary compensation, for the turning over of Federal outposts in Charleston Harbor, including Fort Sumter.  Refusing to negotiate, President Buchanan in January sent ships with 200 troops intending to restock and reinforce Fort Sumter, an island only four miles from downtown Charleston. The first one was fired on and forced to turn back, and the South looked for some reconciliation. But when Lincoln took office two months later he still refused to negotiate and, a month after saying he had no intention of invading the South, accomplished that in effect by ordering a second flotilla of armed supply ships to force its way into the harbor.



Upon learning of the second fleet, in what seemed a clear and deliberate act of war, the government of South Carolina repeatedly demanded that the Unionists in the fort surrender. When they refused, the Carolina battalions gave warning on April 12, and after an hour began firing. The fort, low on munitions as well as provisions, finally surrendered the next day, the soldiers were transported by Confederate steamers to Union ships outside the harbor, and the only casualties were two Union soldiers that blew themselves up by accident during a cannon salute during the lowering of the U.S. flag.


Exactly what Lincoln wanted. more

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