[lbo-talk] US Civil War (was Platypus etc)

SA s11131978 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 8 18:51:09 PDT 2010

Joseph Catron wrote:

> If you're claiming that the Union's decision-making class was motivated to
> go to war by abolitionism, you really are going to have to put some kind of
> proof on the table.

Then why did the South secede? It was all in their heads?.....

Some passages from a standard textbook on the history of the Civil War era by one of its most prominent historians, James McPherson:

> During the secession crisis, Southerners quoted from hundreds of
> Republican speeches and editorials to prove that it was the
> Republicans who were the revolutionists, not they. Their favorites for
> this purpose were Seward and Lincoln. These men were the leaders of
> their party, said Southerners. If anyone truly represented Republican
> intentions, they did. In his "Irrepressible Conflict" speech, Seward
> had predicted the ultimate victory of the free-labor ideology. "I
> know, and you know, that a revolution has begun," he had said in 1858.
> "I know, and all the world knows, that revolutions never go backward."
> And in his "House Divided" address, Lincoln had announced that the
> Republicans intended to place slavery "where the public mind shall
> rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction."'"
> Whether ultimate or imminent, the extinction of slavery was precisely
> what the South feared. No matter how moderate the Republicans
> professed to be, no matter how many assurances they gave that slavery
> in the states would be safe under their rule, nothing could gainsay
> their ultimate purpose to destroy the institution. No one should "be
> deluded . . . into the belief that the Black Republican party is a
> moderate and conservative, rather than a radical and progressive
> party," warned the New Orleans Delta. "It is, in fact, essentially a
> revolutionary party."'
> Secessionists conjured up a frightening scenario of future Republican
> actions: exclusion of slavery from the territories would bring in so
> many new free states that the South would be overwhelmed in Congress
> and encircled by free territory; Lincoln would appoint Republican
> justices to the Supreme Court and thus turn this bastion of Southern
> protection into an engine of destruction; Congress would repeal the
> Fugitive Slave Law and slaves would flee northward by the thousands;
> Congress would abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and on all
> federal property such as forts and arsenals, navy yards and customs
> houses; the government would stand by and do nothing while new John
> Browns led armies of insurrection into the South. "Now that the black
> radical Republicans have the power I suppose they will [John] Brown us
> all," exclaimed a South Carolinian when he learned of Lincoln's
> election, "We shall be in a State of Revolution forthwith," echoed
> another.
> The greatest concern of some secessionists was the possibility that
> the Republican party might have some attraction for non-slaveholders,
> especially in the border South and the upcountry. What if Hinton Rowan
> Helper was right about the yeomen farmers' alienation from the planter
> elite? "The great lever by which the abolitionists hope to extirpate
> slavery in the States is the aid of non-slaveholding citizens in the
> South,' worried one editor. If the Republicans used the patronage
> cleverly by appointing non-slaveholders to federal offices in the
> South, they might build up party with supporters for the incoming
> administration here in our midst." This might prove to be the entering
> wedge to "Helperize" the South.


> The relationship between Republicans and abolitionists [note:
> "abolitionist" and "antislavery" are two different things] in 1860 was
> ambivalent. Many abolitionists denounced the Republican party as
> being, in Garrison's words, a "timeserving, a temporizing, a cowardly
> party" because it was pledged to restriction rather than destruction
> of slavery. Republicans' descriptions of themselves as the true "White
> Man's Party" because they wanted to reserve the territories for free
> white labor also drew abolitionist fire. So did Lincoln's statements
> opposing interference with slavery in the states, curtailment of the
> interstate slave trade, and repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law. In most
> areas, the Republicans held abolitionists at arm's length because
> association with these "fanatics" would lose votes.
> But in parts of the upper North, especially New England, relations
> between Republicans and abolitionists were cordial. Republican
> gubernatorial candidates John Andrew of Massachusetts and Austin Blair
> of Michigan were abolitionists in all but name. So were numerous
> Republican senators and congressmen and virtually the whole Republican
> party of Vermont. Several out-and-out abolitionists campaigned for
> Lincoln. Most Garrisonians said privately that despite Republican
> shortcomings, "Lincoln's election will indicate growth in the right
> direction." ...Most political abolitionists had joined the Republican
> party, where they constituted a radical cell that gave the party a
> crusading, militant tone in the upper North.
> [...]
> The reaction of antislavery men to Lincoln's election seemed to
> confirm Southern fears. The abolitionists Wendell Phillips and
> Frederick Douglass had vigorously criticized Republican defects. But
> the day after the election, Phillips told a celebrating crowd in
> Boston: "For the first time in our history the slave has chosen a
> President of the United States (Cheers). We have passed the Rubicon."
> No longer would the slave power rule the country, said Douglass.
> "Lincoln's election has vitiated their authority and broken their
> power. ... It has demonstrated the possibility of electing, if not an
> Abolitionist, at least an anti-slavery reputation to the Presidency."
> And Charles Francis Adams, the son and grandson of presidents, a
> founder of the Free Soil and revolution has actually taken
> place....The country has once and for all thrown off the domination of
> the Slaveholders."
> In response to this Northern revolution, the South launched its own
> counterrevolution of secession.

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list