Lincoln: Slavery, State’s Rights, and Civil War

What comes to mind at the mention of the name Abraham Lincoln? Only for the small minority would the name conjure up anything but the remembrance of a noble man who freed the slaves. The common perception is that Lincoln, guided only by his firm belief in the creed that all men are created equal, was so abhorred by the subjugation of the black man that he went to war with the south to ensure the emancipation of all slaves. So noble was his cause and so great his victory over the greatest evil in our country’s history that Lincoln has been elevated in the minds of many to a nearly saintly status.

Reality is rarely so cut-and-dry as the condensed sound bites that make their way into the history books. A deeper inspection of any historical subject yields up a vast flora of contradicting speculations. When one is willing to explore the discrepancies, to test the waters for themselves, a personal formulation of truth can emerge. I’ve recently spent some time researching Lincoln’s views on slavery and secession in an attempt to understand what really drove eleven states to dissolve their affiliation with the United States of America and the subsequent War of the States that claimed the lives of over 600,000 people.

There are some Libertarian writers who have made careers out of exposing the “truth” about Lincoln. Unfortunately, the tone of much of these articles imply a southern sympathy, of which I have none. By focusing solely on the issue of state’s rights, which I do not deny, those seeking to undermine Lincoln’s character paint the picture of a Federalist Whig bent on the consolidation of power in a centralized federal government, who rather than being driven by the inhumane treatment of men, women and children due to the color of their skin, was compelled to war over the idea that the Union must be preserved and protected at all costs.

The allegation is that the abolition of slavery was merely a war strategy to weaken the south so that by force the union could be upheld and the notion of state sovereignty, a natural extension of individual sovereignty, was eliminated. Some go so far as to say that Lincoln was racist himself. Could this all be true? Here are some quotes and excerpts that I have found to aid you in determining the truth for yourself.

When Americans Understood the Declaration of Independence by Thomas DiLorenzo

In his first inaugural address Lincoln strongly supported the Fugitive Slave Act and the proposed “Corwin Amendment” to the Constitution, which had already passed the House and Senate, which would have prohibited the federal government from ever interfering with Southern slavery. Thus, it was his position that slavery should be explicitly enshrined in the Constitution, made “express and irrevocable” to use his exact words, which is hardly the position one who believes that “all men are created equal” would take. It was empty political rhetoric at its worst.

The Corwin Amendment

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

Lincoln’s Presidential Warrant to Arrest Chief Justice Roger B. Taney by Charles Adams

Lincoln and most Northerners, during the war, accepted the Machiavellian doctrine that the end justified the means, when the end was to preserve the Union, and was to be achieved regardless of the Constitution and rulings of the Supreme Court. Lincoln expressed that policy to a Chicago clergyman:

“As commander in chief of the army and navy, in time of war, I suppose I have a right to take any measure which may best subdue the enemy.”

Lincoln’s Spectacular Lie

The War Between the States was fought, in Lincoln’s mind, to preserve the sanctity of centralization powered by a strong and unchecked federal government. Only through such an established order could Lincoln do his Whig friends the honor of advancing The American System, a mercantilist arrangement that spawned corporate welfare, a monetary monopoly for the Feds, and a protectionist tariff approach that stymied free traders everywhere.

The Hampton Roads Peace Conference During the War Between the States by John V. Denson

In order to bring into clear focus the significance of the Hampton Roads Conference, it should be recalled that on April 4, 1861, before the start of the war on April 12, the Secession Convention in Virginia, which had convened in February of 1861, sent a delegate to visit President Lincoln in the White House to discuss the results of the action recently taken in Virginia. When the State of Virginia originally voted on its ratification ordinance approving the U.S. Constitution, it contained a specific clause protecting their right to secede in the future. The delegate was Colonel John B. Baldwin, who was a strong opponent of secession by Virginia, although he recognized the right. His message communicated privately to the president on April 4, was that the convention had voted not to secede if President Lincoln would issue a written pledge to refrain from the use of force in order to get the seceded states back into the Union. President Lincoln told Colonel Baldwin that it was four days too late now to take that action. Unknown to all except a few insiders of the administration, meaning that members of the Congress did not know, the president had already issued secret orders on April 1, to send a fleet of ships to Fort Sumter in order to provoke the South into firing the first shot in order to start the war.

It was generally recognized in both the North and the South by 1865 that slavery was a dying institution, not just in America, but throughout Western Civilization. It was also obvious to both the North and the South that slavery would be hard to maintain in a separate Confederate South without the constitutional and statutory fugitive slave provisions which had required free states to return escaped slaves. In fact, many abolitionists had advocated Northern secession before the war as a means to end slavery by depriving the Southern states of the benefits of the fugitive slave clause in the Constitution and the laws relating thereto. The offer of the North to pay for the freed slaves was merely an added inducement to rejoin the Union but Lincoln had always been willing to accept slavery where it already existed if the South would remain in, or later, rejoin the Union.

President Lincoln stated that he had always been willing to discuss a peace offer as long as the first condition was met and that would be for the Confederacy to pledge to rejoin the Union. If that condition was agreed upon then they could discuss any other details that were necessary. Mr. Stephens responded by suggesting that if they could come up with some proposal to stop the hostilities, which might lead to the restoration of the Union without further bloodshed, would it not be advisable to act on that proposal, even without an absolute pledge of ultimate restoration being required at the beginning? President Lincoln replied firmly that there would be no stopping of the military operations unless there was a pledge first by the Confederacy to rejoin the Union immediately.

The subject of slavery then came up and Mr. Stephens asked President Lincoln what would be the status of the slave population in the Confederate states, and especially what effect the Emancipation Proclamation would have if the Confederates rejoined the Union. President Lincoln responded that the Proclamation was only a war measure and as soon as the war ceased, it would have no operation for the future. It was his opinion that the Courts would decide that the slaves who were emancipated under the Proclamation would remain free but those who were not emancipated during the war would remain in slavery. Mr. Seward pointed out that only about two hundred thousand (200,000) slaves had come under the operation of the Proclamation and this would be a small number out of the total. Mr. Seward then brought up the point that several days before the meeting, there had been a proposed 13th constitutional amendment to cause the immediate abolition of slavery throughout the United States, but if the war were to cease and the Confederates rejoined the Union, they would have enough votes to kill the amendment.

Mr. Hunter asked President Lincoln whether West Virginia, which had seceded from the State of Virginia, would be allowed to remain a separate state and President Lincoln stated that it would. Lincoln had once been a strong proponent of secession, and as a first-term congressman from Illinois, he spoke in a session of the House of Representatives in 1848 and argued that:

“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable and most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.” (emphasis supplied).

Lincoln recognized the right of West Virginia to secede but refused to recognize the right of the South to secede. Mr. Hunter indicated that President Lincoln’s proposal amounted to an unconditional surrender but Mr. Seward responded that the North would not be conquerors but rather the states would merely have to recognize national authority and the execution of the national laws.

The abolition of slavery was not the purpose of the war. In his Inaugural Address he promised he would invade the South for the purpose of collecting taxes and recovering the forts but he would support the first 13th amendment which protected slavery in the states where it already existed.

The abolition of slavery by the 13th amendment was a great step forward in the struggle for individual freedom and it eliminated a horrible evil in America which had been practiced for centuries throughout the world, but the passage of that amendment was not the purpose of the war and slavery would certainly have died soon without a war as it did elsewhere throughout Western Civilization without wars.

Abraham Lincoln: First Inaugural Address. U.S. Inaugural Addresses. 1989

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that—

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Abraham Lincoln: Second Inaugural Address. U.S. Inaugural Addresses. 1989

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. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

Gettysburg College’s Hate Crime ‘Artist’ by Thomas DiLorenzo

the two most famous Confederate generals, Lee and Jackson, were not only opposed to slavery but, in Lee’s case, personally liberated hundreds of slaves. Lee inherited slaves from his father-in-law, George Washington Park Custis, Martha Washington’s grandson who George Washington adopted after marrying Martha. On December 29, 1862, as executor of his father-in-law’s will, Robert E. Lee “did manumit, emancipate and forever set free from slavery” over 170 people. According to Lee biographer Emory Thomas, Lee “meticulously searched his memory and records to make sure he missed no one”

A Letter Written by the South’s own General Lee

The South has contended only for the supremacy of the constitution, and the just administration of the laws made in pursuance to it. Virginia to the last made great efforts to save the union, and urged harmony and compromise. Senator Douglass, in his remarks upon the compromise bill recommended by the committee of thirteen in 1861, stated that every member from the South, including Messrs. Toombs and Davis, expressed their willingness to accept the proposition of Senator Crittenden from Kentucky, as a final settlement of the controversy, if sustained by the republican party, and that the only difficulty in the way of an amicable adjustment was with the republican party. Who then is responsible for the war? Although the South would have preferred any honorable compromise to the fratricidal war which has taken place, she now accepts in good faith its constitutional results, and receives without reserve the amendment which has already been made to the constitution for the extinction of slavery. That is an event that has been long sought, though in a different way, and by none has it been more earnestly desired than by citizens of Virginia.

1860 BY REV. J. E. CARNES – Galviston Texas

I give what appears to be the truthful from my own point of view. Before proceeding to do so. let me state the issue. It has been done for me in a late speech by Judge Roberts of our Supreme Court:

“The great question before the American people is : shall the institution of slavery be put upon a sure basis of gradual extinction. The Northern controlling majority say it shall. The South say it shall not. And that is the issue.” Judge Roberts of our Supreme Court

The man who would dispute that statement of the question is so far behind the times that it would take all night to get back to him.

The American Gulag by Thomas DiLorenzo

Lincoln certainly did unconstitutionally suspend habeas corpus. But the tens of thousands of Northern citizens who were imprisoned without due process by the Lincoln administration (as many as 38,000 by one estimate in the Columbia Law Journal) were overwhelmingly plain citizens from all walks of life who simply expressed doubt over the administration’s unconstitutional and despotic policies, including the shutting down of more than 300 opposition newspapers and the mass arrest of political dissenters by the military. Tens of thousands of Northern political prisoners spent months in a series of gulags, such as Fort Lafayette in New York Harbor, which came to be known as “the American Bastille.”

Why did the South Secede: Slavery or State’s Rights?

Address of William L. Harris

William Harris was a native Georgian and graduate of the University of Georgia who had moved to Mississippi in 1837. He had served as a circuit court judge, and was elected to Mississippi’s highest court, the High Court of Errors and Appeals, in 1858. He was appointed a comissioner to the State of Georgia by Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus. In this capacity he delivered the following address to the Georgia General Assembly, on December 17, 1860.

I am instructed by the resolution from which I derive my mission, to inform the State of Georgia, that Mississippi has passed an act calling a convention of her people, “to consider the present threatening relations of the Northern and Southern sections of the Confederacy — aggravated by the recent election of a President, upon principles of hostility to the States of the South; and to express the earnest hope of Mississippi, that this State will co-operate with her in the adoption of efficient measures for their common defence and safety.”

It will be remembered, that the violation of our constitutional rights, which has caused such universal dissatisfaction in the South, is not of recent date. Ten years since, this Union was rocked from centre to circumference, by the very same outrages, of which we now complain, only now “aggravated” by the recent election. Nothing but her devotion to the Union our Fathers made, induced the South, then, to yield to a compromise, in which Mr. Clay rightly said, we had yielded everything but our honor. We had then in Mississippi a warm contest, which finally ended in reluctant acquiescence in the Compromise measures. The North pledged anew her faith to yield to us our constitutional rights in relation to slave property. They are now, and have been ever since that act, denied to us, until her broken faith and impudent threats, had become almost insufferable before the late election.

Our fathers made this a government for the white man, rejecting the negro, as an ignorant, inferior, barbarian race, incapable of self-government, and not, therefore, entitled to be associated with the white man upon terms of civil, political, or social equality.

Apostles of Disunion: The Case for Southern Secession

Why did the Deep South secede from the United States and form the Confederacy in 1861?

Charles B. Dew answered this question in Apostles of Disunion. The Deep South states and later the Confederate government dispatched commissioners to the Upper South and Border South to make the case for secession from the Union.

Alabama’s commissioners to North Carolina, Isham W. Garrott and Robert H. Smith, predicted that the white children of their state would “be compelled to flee from the land of their birth, and from the slaves their parents have toiled to acquire as an inheritance for them, or submit to the degradation of being reduced to an equality with them, and all its attendant horrors.”

Mississippi commissioner William L. Harris made this point clearly and unambiguously in his speech to the Georgia legislature in 1860. “Our fathers made this a government for the white man,” Harris told the Georgians, “rejecting the negro, as an ignorant, inferior, barbarian race, incapable of self-government, and not, therefore, entitled to be associated with the white man upon terms of civil, political, or social equality.” But the Republicans intended to overturn and strike down this great feature of our Union … and to substitute in its stead their new theory of the universal equality of the black and white races.”

Commissioner Samuel L. Hall of Georgia told the North Carolina legislature on February 13, 1861, that only a people “dead to all sense of virtue and dignity” would embrace the Republican doctrine of “the social and political equality of the white and black races.”
Luther J. Glenn of Atlanta, made the same point to the Missouri legislature on March 2, 1861.

In 1860 and 1861 Preston, Curry, and the other commissioners had seen a horrific future facing their region within the confines of Abraham Lincoln’s Union. When they used words like “submission” and “degradation,” they were referring to “final subjugation” and “annihilation,” they were not talking about constitutional differences or political arguments. They were talking about the dawning of an abominable world in the South, a world created by the Republican destruction of slavery.

The secession commissioners knew what this new and hateful world would look like. Over and over again they called up three stark images that, taken together, constituted the white South’s worst nightmare.

The first threat was the looming specter of racial equality. The commissioners insisted almost to a man that Republican ascendancy in Washington placed white supremacy in the South in moral peril. Mississippi commissioner William L. Harris made this point clearly and unambiguously in his speech to the Georgia legislature in 1860. “Our fathers made this a government for the white man,” Harris told the Georgians, “rejecting the negro, as an ignorant, inferior, barbarian race, incapable of self-government, and not, therefore, entitled to be associated with the white man upon terms of civil, political, or social equality.” But the Republicans intended to overturn and strike down this great feature of our Union … and to substitute in its stead their new theory of the universal equality of the black and white races.”

Alabama’s commissioners to North Carolina, Isham W. Garrott and Robert H. Smith, predicted that the white children of their state would “be compelled to flee from the land of their birth, and from the slaves their parents have toiled to acquire as an inheritance for them, or submit to the degradation of being reduced to an equality with them, and all its attendant horrors.”

South Carolina’s John McQueen warned the Texas Convention that Lincoln and his Republicans were bent on “the abolition of slavery upon this continent and the elevation of our own slaves to an equality with ourselves and our children.” And so it went, as commissioner after commissioner – Leonidas Spratt of South Carolina, David Clopton and Arthur F. Hopkins, Henry L. Benning of Georgia – hammered home this same point.

The impending imposition of racial equality informed the speeches of other commissioners as well. Thomas J. Wharton, Mississippi’s attorney general and that state’s commissioner to Tennessee, said in Nashville on January 8, 1861, that the Republican Party would, “at no distant day, inaugurate the reign of equality of all races and colors, and the universality of the electoral franchise.”

Commissioner Samuel L. Hall of Georgia told the North Carolina legislature on February 13, 1861, that only a people “dead to all sense of virtue and dignity” would embrace the Republican doctrine of “the social and political equality of the white and black races.” Another Georgia commissioner, Luther J. Glenn of Atlanta, made the same point to the Missouri legislature on March 2, 1861. The Republican platform, press, and principal spokesmen had made their “purposes, objects, and motives” crystal clear, Glenn insisted: “hostility to the South, the extinctions of slavery, and the ultimate elevation of the negro to civil, political and social equality with the white man.” These reasons and these reasons alone had prompted his state, “to dissolve her connexion with the General Government,” Glenn insisted.

The second element in the commissioners prophecy was the prospect of a race war. Mississippi commissioner Alexander H. Handy raised this threat in his Baltimore speech in December 1860 – Republican agents infiltrating the South “to excite the slave to cut the throat of his master.” Alabamians Garrott and Smith told their Raleigh audience that Republican policies would force the South to either abandon slavery “or be doomed to a servile war.” William Cooper, Alabama’s commissioner to Missouri, delivered a similar message in Jefferson City. “Under the policy of the Republican Party, the time would arrive when the scenes of San Domingo and Hayti, with all their attendant horrors, would be enacted in the slaveholding States,” he told the Missourians. David Clopton wrote the governor of Delaware that Republican ascendancy “endangers instead of ensuring domestic tranquility by the possession of channels through which to circulate insurrectionary documents and disseminate insurrectionary sentiments among a hitherto contented servile population

Wharton of Mississippi told the Tennessee legislature that Southerners “will not, cannot surrender our institutions,” and that Republican attempts to subvert slavery “will drench the country in blood, and extirpate one or other of the races.” In their speeches to the Virginia Convention, Fulton Anderson, Henry L. Benning, and John S. Preston all forecast a Republican-inspired race war that would, as Benning put it, “break out everywhere like hidden fire from the earth.”

The third prospect in the commissioners’ doomsday vision was, in many ways, the most dire: racial amalgamation. Judge Harris of Mississippi sounded this note in Georgia in December 1860 when he spoke of Republican insistence on “equality in the rights of matrimony.” Other commissioners repeated this warning in the weeks that followed. In Virginia, Henry Benning insisted that under Republican-led abolition “our women” would suffer “horrors … we cannot contemplate in imagination.” There was not an adult present who could not imagine exactly what Benning was talking about.

Leroy Pope Walker, Alabama’s commissioner to Tennessee and subsequently the first Confederate Secretary of War, predicted that in the absence of secession all would be lost – first, “our property,” and “then our liberties,” and finally the South’s greatest treasure, “the sacred purity of our daughters.”

No commissioner articulated the racial fears of the secessionists better, or more graphically, than Alabama’s Stephen F. Hale. When he wrote of the South facing “amalgamation or extermination” when he referred to “all the horrors of a San Domingo slave insurrection,” when he described every white Southerner “degraded to a position of equality with free negroes,” when he foresaw the sons and daughters of the South “associating with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality,” when he spoke of the Lincoln administration consigning the citizens of the South “to assassinations and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans,” he was giving voice to the night terrors of the secessionist South.

State’s rights, historical political abuses, territorial questions, economic differences, constitutional arguments – all these and more paled into insignificance when placed alongside this vision of the South’s future under Republican domination.

The choice was absolutely clear. The slave states could secede and establish their independence, or they could submit to “Black Republican” rule with its inevitable consequences: Armageddon or amalgamation. Whites forced to endure racial equality, race war, a staining of the blood – who could tolerate such things?

The commissioners sent out to spread the secessionist gospel in late 1860 and early 1861 clearly believed that the racial fate of their region was hanging in the balance in the wake of Lincoln’s election. Only through disunion could the South be saved from the disastrous effects of Republican principles and Republican malevolence. Hesitation, submission – any course other than immediate secession – would place both slavery and white supremacy on the road to certain extinction. The commissioners were arguing that disunion, even if it meant risking war, was the only way to save the white race.

Lysander Spooner: No Treason

The pretense that the “abolition of slavery” was either a motive or justification for the war, is a fraud of the same character with that of “maintaining the national honor.” Who, but such usurpers, robbers, and murderers as they, ever established slavery? Or what government, except one resting upon the sword, like the one we now have, was ever capable of maintaining slavery? And why did these men abolish slavery? Not from any love of liberty in general — not as an act of justice to the black man himself, but only “as a war measure,” and because they wanted his assistance, and that of his friends, in carrying on the war they had undertaken for maintaining and intensifying that political, commercial, and industrial slavery, to which they have subjected the great body of the people, both black and white. And yet these imposters now cry out that they have abolished the chattel slavery of the black man — although that was not the motive of the war — as if they thought they could thereby conceal, atone for, or justify that other slavery which they were fighting to perpetuate, and to render more rigorous and inexorable than it ever was before. There was no difference of principle — but only of degree — between the slavery they boast they have abolished, and the slavery they were fighting to preserve; for all restraints upon men’s natural liberty, not necessary for the simple maintenance of justice, are of the nature of slavery, and differ >from each other only in degree.

If their object had really been to abolish slavery, or maintain liberty or justice generally, they had only to say: All, whether white or black, who want the protection of this government, shall have it; and all who do not want it, will be left in peace, so long as they leave us in peace. Had they said this, slavery would necessarily have been abolished at once; the war would have been saved; and a thousand times nobler union than we have ever had would have been the result. It would have been a voluntary union of free men; such a union as will one day exist among all men, the world over, if the several nations, so called, shall ever get rid of the usurpers, robbers, and murderers, called governments, that now plunder, enslave, and destroy them.

Still another of the frauds of these men is, that they are now establishing, and that the war was designed to establish, “a government of consent.” The only idea they have ever manifested as to what is a government of consent, is this — that it is one to which everybody must consent, or be shot. This idea was the dominant one on which the war was carried on; and it is the dominant one, now that we have got what is called “peace.”

Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union

A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

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.

We maintain that in every compact between two or more parties, the obligation is mutual; that the failure of one of the contracting parties to perform a material part of the agreement, entirely releases the obligation of the other; and that where no arbiter is provided, each party is remitted to his own judgment to determine the fact of failure, with all its consequences.

In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. 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.

Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union

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.

A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.

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.

Florida Declaration of Secession

By the agency of a large proportion of the members from the non slaveholding States books have been published and circulated amongst us the direct tendency and avowed purpose of which is to excite insurrection and servile war with all their attendant horrors. A President has recently been elected, an obscure and illiterate man without experience in public affairs or any general reputation mainly if not exclusively on account of a settled and often proclaimed hostility to our institutions and a fixed purpose to abolish them. It is denied that it is the purpose of the party soon to enter into the possession of the powers of the Federal Government to abolish slavery by any direct legislative act. This has never been charged by any one. But it has been announced by all the leading men and presses of the party that the ultimate accomplishment of this result is its settled purpose and great central principle. That no more slave States shall be admitted into the confederacy and that the slaves from their rapid increase (the highest evidence of the humanity of their owners will become value less. Nothing is more certain than this and at no distant day. What must be the condition of the slaves themselves when their number becomes so large that their labor will be of no value to their owners. Their natural tendency every where shown where the race has existed to idleness vagrancy and crime increased by an inability to procure subsistence. Can any thing be more impudently false than the pretense that this state of things is to be brought about from considerations of humanity to the slaves.

Why Did Alabama Secede? | Student of the American Civil War

In response to Lincoln’s election and these resolutions, Gov. Andrew B. Moore sent a letter to the legislature which said”…The state of society that must exist in the Southern States, with four millions of free negroes and their increase, turned loose upon them, I will not discuss—it is too horrible to contemplate.”

Georgia Secession

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.

The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. 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.

Texas

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.

The States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, by solemn legislative enactments, have deliberately, directly or indirectly violated the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article [the fugitive slave clause] of the federal constitution, and laws passed in pursuance thereof; thereby annulling a material provision of the compact, designed by its framers to perpetuate the amity between the members of the confederacy and to secure the rights of the slave-holding States in their domestic institutions– a provision founded in justice and wisdom, and without the enforcement of which the compact fails to accomplish the object of its creation. Some of those States have imposed high fines and degrading penalties upon any of their citizens or officers who may carry out in good faith that provision of the compact, or the federal laws enacted in accordance therewith.

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.

Arkansas

With slavery, the most outstanding of the issues between North and South, the majority of people in Arkansas were not greatly concerned. Four fifths of the white families in the state owned no slaves. Few of those who did own slaves believed that the system was in danger. For many years the slavery question had caused trouble, but somehow compromises had always been reached.

Tennesse – East Tennessee Anti-Secession Resolutions

What happened in Tennesse to those who tried to stop it’s secession? They were hunted down by the Confederacy.

Vain protest! It was not long before those Unionists and protestants against wrong were flying for their lives, and were hunted down like wild beasts. The leaders disappeared from observation, and the people could only acquiesce in a state of affairs which, in the presence of the armed minions of the Southern Confederacy, there powerless to prevent. Exiled, outlawed, scourged, imprisoned, consigned to the gallows in companies, the story of East Tennessee is written in tears and blood; and if all other records of the wrong and outrage perpetrated by the Confederacy on Southern citizens were blotted out, the persecutions inflicted upon loyal men in Tennessee would suffice to consign the memory of the secession movement and its leaders to eternal infamy.

Need More?

The Fugitive Slave Laws: Gods Laws Paramount to the Laws of Men

Abraham Lincoln’s Record on the Slavery Question: His Doctrines Condemned by Henry Clay (Founder of the Whig Party) – A Must Read!!

Aggression of the Slave-Power

The Alternative: A Separate Nation or the Africanization of the South

3 thoughts on “Lincoln: Slavery, State’s Rights, and Civil War

  1. My God, but that’s a lot of propaganda to wade through, so forgive me if I skip most of it and get straight to the point. Regardless of any personal opinions at the time, even Lincoln’s, secession was illegal. There was a process defined in the constitution that allowed for its amendment. There could just as easily have been a process defined for secession. But there wasn’t. Nor did the contract include any means to conditionally ratify it and then change your mind later, so any such conditions attached by a state during ratification were null and void.

    The only way to legally secede would be to first amend the constitution to define a process for secession. And then follow the legally defined process. That would have prevented the war.

    Denying that slavery was the key issue is like denying the holocaust. The issues of states rights arose from the states desiring the right to hold slaves and to expand this right into the opening western states.

    We may easily grant that all the founding fathers had accepted slavery as a presumption that was ratified with the constitution. That battle could not be fought while we were fighting the British Empire for our independence.

    And we may easily grant that racial prejudice was widespread throughout the North and South even while slavery was opposed in the north.

    And so long as slavery gave the South a world-wide competitive edge in the cotton industry, we can presume that it would be coveted by the southern entrepreneurs who profited by it. Therefore, slavery had to be abolished by law, that is, by the rest of us deciding it was no longer to be allowed, even though private enterprise benefitted from the profits.

  2. Excellent Response.
    Obviously slavery was a great source of aggravation between the North and the South at the time of Lincoln. Had the South not seceded it’s quite likely that slavery would have continued far into the future, at least within the states where it was already established. I mean Lincoln was in full support of the first (well technically the second) 13th amendment which would have codified into law the inability of the federal government to offer any legal protection to black men enslaved in the South. But the Federal Government was established to protect the rights of the inhabitants of it’s States. Lincoln paid lip service to the idea that all men are created equal, yet time and time again, proposed that he did not consider blacks and white as equal.

    Spooner makes a great point when he says, “If their(Northern Republicans with Lincoln) object had really been to abolish slavery, or maintain liberty or justice generally, they had only to say: All, whether white or black, who want the protection of this government, shall have it; and all who do not want it, will be left in peace, so long as they leave us in peace. Had they said this, slavery would necessarily have been abolished at once; the war would have been saved; and a thousand times nobler union than we have ever had would have been the result.”

    Lincolns primary reason for entering into war was to uphold the Constitution and see to it that the Union was preserved. To that end, ending slavery was a great tool. It is from this perspective and this perspective only that I could ever conclude that the Civil War was not about the slavery issue, but solidifying supremacy of the Federal Government. That seems to be the primary concern of the Northern army and Lincoln’s Republicans. It is this realization that saddens me, for what more noble fight to wage can there be than to risk life and limb to free an oppressed and enslaved people from their tyrannical captors. I like that story better, but it just doesn’t seem to hold water.

    On the flip side, for the south, the war was all about the State’s Rights to enslave people. This was upheld by the Supreme Court and laws existed that forced norther states to return slaves to their owners in the south rather than providing them with protection. I can’t imagine! The reason the South revolted was to protect, preserve and expand the institution of slavery. They seceded under the spirit of the Declaration of Independence in order that they might escape the expected assault on slavery upon the election of Lincoln. It does not seem as though that attack was being waged however until after the secession had began.

    So we have the North fighting to prosecute the South for violating the compact between the states and the south fighting to separate themselves from the tyrannical federal government so in the bliss of freedom they could continue enslaving human beings unencumbered. Neither side had a moral foot to stand on yet the result was that the slaves were free. Chalk one up to Divine providence.

    It’s my opinion that it is the right and duty of any person to fight against oppression of any sort. That applies equally to the the noble fight to free a man from slavery as it does the just resisting a tyrannical government who believes it’s power to be sufficient to legalize an abomination such as slavery.

    Again Spooner said it best…

    “Their pretenses that they have ‘Saved the Country,’ and ‘Preserved our Glorious Union,’ are frauds like all the rest of their pretenses. By them they mean simply that they have subjugated, and maintained their power over, an unwilling people. This they call ‘Saving the Country’; as if an enslaved and subjugated people — or as if any people kept in subjection by the sword (as it is intended that all of us shall be hereafter) — could be said to have any country. This, too, they call ‘Preserving our Glorious Union’; as if there could be said to be any Union, glorious or inglorious, that was not voluntary. Or as if there could be said to be any union between masters and slaves; between those who conquer, and those who are subjugated.” http://jim.com/treason.htm

  3. Rising up against the tyranny of a foreign king was justified in the Declaration of Independence. But those arguments do not justify rising up against one’s democratically elected government.

    In a democracy, you only need to convince the majority that you are right in order to change things. If slavery could be justified to the majority, then it would have continued unabated. But times change and our moral sense evolves. The South could no longer win the argument.

    Rather than accept the inevitable outlawing of slavery, the South tried to unilaterally void it’s contract with the rest of the states. This was an illegal act. The South could have tried instead to amend the constitution to establish a process for secession. But it probably realized it could not win that argument either.

    The South attempted to secede because of slavery. The rest of the country went to war against them to protect its interests under the contract.

    A democracy makes it possible to peacefully get your way by convincing a majority that you are right. Therefore there is no moral justification for using violence or extortion in a democracy.

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