The Coming of the American Civil War Gary J. Kornblith Oberlin College March 18, 2010 What Caused the Civil War?
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Gary J. Kornblith
March 18, 2010
“One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war.” -- Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address (1865)
Lincoln’s Second Inauguration, 1865
Source: “Abolition of slavery timeline,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolition_of_slavery_timeline
Source: Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone (1998), pp. 369-70
Anthony Benezet teaching black children
for promoting slave trade in original draft
“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And … he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of another.”
“Our Slaves being our Property, why should they be
taxed more than the Land, Sheep, Cattle, Horses, &c.”
-- Thomas Lynch of South Carolina
“Slaves rather weaken than strengthen the State,
and there is therefore some difference between
them and Sheep. Sheep will never make any
insurrections.” --Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania
“Two slaves should be counted as one freeman. . . . Slaves [do] not do so much work as freemen . . . This [is] proved by the price of labor. The hire of a labourer in the Southern colonies being from 8 to pound 12, while in the Northern it [is] generally pound 24.”
--Benjamin Harrison of Virginia
“Article the Sixth. There shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary Servitude in the said territory otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; provided, always that any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.”
“Mr. L. Martin [of Maryland], proposed to . . . to allow a prohibition or tax on the importation of slaves. In the first place, as five slaves are to be counted as three freemen, in the apportionment of Representatives, such a clause would leave an encouragement to this traffic. In the second place, slaves weakened one part of the Union, which the other parts were bound to protect; the privilege of importing them was therefore unreasonable. And in the third place, it was inconsistent with the principles of the Revolution, and dishonorable to the American character, to have such a feature in the Constitution. . . . “
“Mr. Rutledge [of South Carolina:] If the Convention thinks that North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, will ever agree to the plan, unless their right to import slaves be untouched, the expectation is vain. The people of those States will never be such fools, as to give up so important an interest.”
St. George Tucker
Abolition in North
Ban on slave importations
Source: R. W. Fogel, Without Consent or Contract (1989),124.
proposes gradual abolition of
slavery in Missouri as
condition for statehood (1819)
but fails in Senate
to populace at large (1819-20)
“Sir, if a dissolution of the Union must take place, let it be so! If civil war, which gentlemen so much threaten, must come, I can only say, let it come! My hold on life is probably as frail as that of any man who now hears me; but, while that hold lasts, it shall be devoted to the service of my country—to the freedom of man. If blood is necessary to extinguish any fire which I have assisted to kindle, I can assure gentlemen, while I regret the necessity, I shall not forbear to contribute my mite. . . . I know the will of my constituents, and, regardless of consequences, I will avow it; as their representative, I will proclaim their hatred to slavery in every shape; as their representative, here will I hold my stand, until this floor, with the Constitution of my country which supports it, shall sink beneath me. . . .
“Sir, on this subject the eyes of Europe are turned upon you. You boast of the freedom of your Constitution and your laws; you have claimed, in the Declaration of Independence, ‘That all men are created equal . . .’ and yet you have slaves in your country. The enemies of your Government . . . point to your inconsistencies. . . . If you allow slavery to pass into Territories where you have the lawful power to exclude it, you will justly take upon yourself all the charges of inconsistency; but, confine it to the original slaveholding States where you found it in the formation of your Government, and you stand acquitted of all imputation.” --James Tallmadge, Jr., of New York
James Tallmadge, Jr.
“Have the Northern States any idea of the value of our slaves? At least, sir, six hundred millions of dollars. If we lose them, . . . an annual income of at least forty millions of dollars will be lost [and] felt by . . . the whole Union; for to whom, at present, do . . . the Eastern and Northern [States] look for the employment of their shipping, in transporting our bulky and valuable products, and bringing us the manufactures and merchandises of Europe? . . . In a pecuniary view of this subject, therefore, it must ever be the policy of the Eastern and Northern States to continue connected with us. But, sir, there is an infinitely greater call upon them, and this is the call of justice, of affection, and humanity. Reposing at a great distance, in safety, in the full enjoyment of all their Federal and State rights, unattacked in either, or in their individual rights, can they, with indifference, or ought they to risk, in the remotest degree, the consequences which this measure may produce. These may be the division of this Union, and a civil war. Knowing that whatever is said here, must get into the public prints, I am unwilling, for obvious reasons, to go into the description of the horrors which such a war must produce, and ardently pray that none of us may ever live to witness such an event . . .” --Charles Pinckney of South Carolina
*For the purposes of this chart, NY and NJ are considered “free” throughout the period,
even though they did not adopt gradual abolition statutes until 1799 and 1804, respectively.
“[T]his momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. . . . A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper. . . .
“I regret that I am now to die in the belief, that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776, to acquire self-government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons. . . . If they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings they will throw away, against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by scission, they would pause before they would perpetrate this act of suicide on themselves, and of treason against the hopes of the world.”
John Quincy Adams
“Whereas slavery in the United States is an evil acknowledged to be of great and increasing magnitude, and which merits the greatest efforts of this nation to remedy: therefore,
“Resolved, That a committee be appointed to inquire into the expediency of devoting five hundred millions acres of public lands west of the Mississippi as a fund for the purpose of, in the first place, employing a naval force competent to the annihilation of the slave trade. Secondly, the gradual emancipation of slaves, by a voluntary exchange of lands for them; and, lastly, colonizing such emancipated slaves in such way as may be conducive to their happiness in their original country, Africa: Provided, That no such exchange of lands for slaves shall ever be suffered or allowed, except upon the perfectly ascertained consent of such slaves, to be colonized in Africa: And provided also, That, wherever such exchanges are, or shall be made, no separation of husband and wife, or parent and child, shall be permitted contrary to their well ascertained consent.”
“Resolved. . . That, as soon as the portion of the existing funded debt of the United States, for the payment of which the public land of the United States is pledged, shall have been paid off, then, and thenceforth, the whole of the public land of the United States, with the net proceeds of all future sales thereof, shall constitute and form a fund, which is hereby appropriated, and the faith of the United States is pledged, that the said fund shall be inviolably applied to aid the emancipation of such slaves, within any of the United States, and to aid the removal of such slaves, and the removal of such free persons of color, in any of the said states, as by the laws of the states, respectively, may be allowed to be emancipated, or removed, to any territory or country without [i.e., outside] the limits of the United States of America.”
including Henry Clay, Bushrod
Washington, James Madison
but almost none in Lower South
assistance in 1822
denounce colonization as immoral, not just impractical
“Party attachment in former times furnished a complete antidote for sectional prejudices by producing counteracting feelings. It was not until that defence had been broken down that the clamour [against] Southern Influence and African Slavery could be made effectual in the North…. Formerly, attacks upon Southern Republicans were regarded by those of the north as assaults upon their political brethren & resented accordingly. This all powerful sympathy has been much weakened, if not destroyed…. It can & ought to be revived.”--Martin Van Buren (1827)
Anti-abolitionist agitation and riot
in Cincinnati, 1836
“I would preserve for free white labor a fair country, a rich inheritance, where the sons of toil, of my own race and color, can live without the disgrace which association with negro slavery brings upon free white labor.”--David Wilmot
James K. Polk
Martin Van Buren
in Washington, D.C.
Henry Clay addressing Senate, 1850
“I am determined never to make another
speech on the slavery question --let us
cease agitating, stop the debate, and drop the subject. If we do this, the Compromise will be recognized as a final settlement.”
--Stephen Douglas (1850)
“In 1820, the Slave States said to the Free States: ‘Admit Missouri with Slavery and refrain from positive exclusion south of 36º 30' and we will join you in perpetual prohibition north of that line.’ The Free States consented. In 1854, the Slave States say to the Free States: ‘Missouri is admitted; no prohibition of Slavery south of 36º 30' has been attempted; we have received the full consideration of our agreement; no more is to be gained by adherence to it on our part; we, therefore, propose to cancel the compact." If this be not Punic faith, what is it? Not without the deepest dishonor and crime can the Free States acquiesce in this demand. . . .
“[T]he first operation of the proposed permission of Slavery in Nebraska will be to stay the progress of the Free States westward, and to cut off the free States of the Pacific from the free States of the Atlantic. It is hoped, doubtless, by compelling the whole commerce and the whole travel between the East and West to pass for hundreds of miles through a Slaveholding region, in the heart of the continent, and by the influence of a Federal Government, controlled by the Slave Power, to extinguish Freedom and to establish Slavery in the States and Territories of the Pacific, and thus permanently subjugate the whole country to the yoke of a Slaveholding despotism.”
House of Representatives, 1854 Election
Source: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._House_election,_1854)
on basis of Lecompton Constitution
opposed by most Kansans (1858)
Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina
attacking Sen. Charles Sumner
of Massachusetts in U.S. Senate
John C. Breckinridge
“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.…
“Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England. --Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of Mississippi from the Federal Union