Michael T. Griffith

When I began to study the Civil War, I realized that
much of what I had been taught about it in school was either wrong
or incomplete. It has been said that history is written by the victors.
This is especially true when it comes to the Civil War. The Southern
side of the story is rarely presented fairly in our public schools
and textbooks today. I believe it is important that we as Americans
know the whole truth about the Civil War. The purpose of this article
is to present the South’s side of the story.

The following basic facts are undisputed: The seven states of the
Deep South seceded in response to the victory of the Republican
Party’s presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, in the 1860
election. These states formed the Confederate States of America.
Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy. A small federal garrison
occupied Fort Sumter, South Carolina, on December 26, 1860. The
Confederate government attempted to negotiate the withdrawal of
the garrison from the fort. Lincoln decided not to withdraw the
garrison. Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.
Lincoln issued a call-up for 75,000 troops to put down what he claimed
was a rebellion in the South. Four more Southern states joined the
Confederacy. Lincoln sent federal armies into the South. The war
lasted approximately four years and ended in April 1865.

The version of the Civil War that’s taught in nearly all
textbooks goes something like this: “The only reason the South
wanted to leave the Union was to protect slavery. The South had
no right to secede. The South started the war by firing on Fort
Sumter. The war was fought over slavery. The defeat of the South
was a victory for government ‘of the people, by the people,
and for the people.’” This is the version of the war
that I accepted for most of my life.

We will consider twelve issues relating to the Civil War: Why Did
the South Secede? Did the South Have the Right to Secede? What Caused
the War? Who Started the War? The Emancipation Proclamation. Republicans,
the North, and Racism. Was the War Fought Over Slavery? What Happened
at Andersonville Prison? Did the South Control the Federal Government
Until 1860? The Reconstruction Era. The True Nature of the War.
And, What If the South Had Been Allowed to Go in Peace?

Why Did the South Secede?

Nearly all textbooks give the impression that the South withdrew
from the Union merely to protect the institution of slavery. This
is a misleading, overly simplistic characterization. Slavery was
not the only factor that led the South to secede. In fact, some
of the wealthiest slaveholders opposed secession. They believed,
for good reason, that slavery would actually be safer in the Union
than out of it. Historian William Klingaman notes that even Lincoln
argued that the South would have a harder time protecting slavery
outside the Union:

But secession, Lincoln argued, would actually make it harder for
the South to preserve slavery. If the Southern states tried to leave
the Union, they would lose all their constitutional guarantees.
. . . (Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, New York: Viking
Press, 2001, p. 32)

Most people aren’t aware that, even as president, Lincoln
supported a proposed constitutional amendment that would have guaranteed
slavery’s continuation forever. Lincoln mentioned his support
for this amendment in his first inaugural address. In the years
leading up to the Civil War, Lincoln acknowledged that slavery was
protected by the Constitution. He also supported the Fugitive Slave
Law. Therefore, some Southern statesmen didn’t believe Lincoln
was going to threaten slavery’s existence. Yet, they supported
secession anyway.

Most Southern leaders who advocated secession in order to protect
slavery did so because they believed that Lincoln and the Republicans
in Congress would try to abolish slavery by unconstitutional means
and that Southern slaveholders would not receive compensation for
their slaves. Southern spokesmen felt this would be unfair, since
Northern slaveholders had been able to receive compensation for
their slaves when most Northern states had abolished slavery several
decades earlier. They knew that emancipation without compensation
would do great damage to the Southern economy. Critics note that
many Southern statesmen voiced the view that slavery was a “positive
good.” Yet, even the “positive good” advocates
acknowledged that slavery had its evils and abuses. In any case,
there were plenty of Southerners who opposed slavery and who were
willing to see it abolished in a fair, gradual manner, as had been
done in most Northern states. After all, 69-75 percent of Southern
families did not own slaves. However, few Southerners believed the
Republicans were interested in a fair, gradual emancipation program.
The more extreme Republicans, who were known as “Radical Republicans,”
certainly weren’t interested in such a program.

Few people today understand why the South distrusted the Republican
Party. Not only was the Republican Party a new party, it was also
the first purely regional (or sectional) party in the country’s
history. Moreover, Republican leaders frequently gave inflammatory
anti-Southern speeches, some of which included egregious falsehoods
and even threats (Susan-Mary Grant, North Over South: Northern Nationalism
and American Identity in the Antebellum Era, University of Kansas
Press, 2000). Historian William C. Cooper points out that the Republicans
“had no interest in cultivating support in the South, which
they branded as basically un-American,” and that “No
major party had ever before so completely repudiated the South”
(Jefferson Davis, American, Vintage Books Edition, New York: Vintage
Books, 2000, pp. 294, 295). British historian Susan-Mary Grant notes
that the Republican Party that came into being in 1854 was “a
sectional party with a sectional ideology . . . that was predicated
on opposition to the South, to the economic, social, and political
reality of that section” (North Over South, p. 17). Southerners
were alarmed when dozens of Republican congressmen endorsed an advertisement
for Hinton Helper’s book The Impending Crisis of the South,
which spoke approvingly of a potential slave revolt that would kill
untold numbers of Southern citizens in a “barbarous massacre.”
The Republican Party even distributed an abridged edition of the
book as a campaign document, and Republican editors added captions
like “The Stupid Masses of the South” and “Revolution
. . . Violently If We Must.” Southerners also noticed that
the Republicans broke the long-established tradition of having a
sectionally balanced presidential ticket. For decades, all major
political parties had nominated tickets that consisted of one candidate
from the North and one from the South. Each of the three other parties
in the 1860 election followed this tradition, but not the Republican
Party. Another reason that Southerners were worried about the Republicans
was that the party’s leaders made it clear they would push
for several policies that the South believed were harmful and unconstitutional.
Many Southerners feared that Republican leaders were determined
to subjugate and exploit the South by any means. With these facts
in mind, perhaps it’s not hard to understand why the election
of Lincoln triggered the secession of seven Southern states.

As mentioned, slavery was not the only factor that led to secession.
If one reads the Declarations of Causes of Secession and the Ordinances
of Secession that were issued by the first seven states of the Confederacy,
one finds that there were several reasons these states wanted to
be independent and that some of the reasons had nothing to do with
slavery. For example, the Georgia and Texas Declarations of Causes
of Secession included economic complaints, in addition to concerns
relating to slavery. The Texas declaration complained that unfair
federal legislation was enriching the North at the expense of the
Southern states:

They [the Northern states] have impoverished the slave-holding
States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves
by draining our substance.

The Georgia declaration complained about federal protectionism
and subsidies for Northern business interests:

The material prosperity of the North was greatly dependent on the
Federal Government; that of the South not at all. In the first years
of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests
of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense
of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks
sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which
yet continue), and $500,000 [about $8.5 million in today’s
dollars] is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating
interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and
against competition in the coasting trade. Congress granted both
requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this
business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution
to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages,
they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business
as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing
the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen
upon the Treasury, and the Government now pays above $2,000,000
annually [about $34 million today] for the support of these objects.
These interests, in connection with the commercial and manufacturing
classes, have also succeeded, by means of subventions to mail steamers
and the reduction in postage, in relieving their business from the
payment of about $7,000,000 annually [about $119 million today],
throwing it upon the public Treasury under the name of postal deficiency.
The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early,
and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors.

The South’s long-standing opposition to the federal tariff
was another factor that led to secession. The South’s concern
over the tariff was nothing new. South Carolina and the federal
government nearly went to war over the tariff in 1832-1833. In the
session of Congress before Lincoln’s inauguration, the House
of Representatives passed a huge increase in the tariff, over the
loud objections of Southern congressmen. Naturally, this alarmed
Southern statesmen at all levels, since the South was always hit
hardest by the tariff. One only has to read the many speeches that
Southern senators and representatives gave against the 1860-1861
tariff increase to see how seriously they took this issue. Moreover,
in the congressional debates from the previous four decades, one
can find dozens of Southern speeches against the tariff. Opposition
to the tariff led some Southern leaders to talk of secession over
thirty years before the Civil War occurred (Walter Brian Cisco,
Taking A Stand: Portraits from the Southern Secession Movement,
Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane Books, 2000, pp. 1-44). Scholars
who argue that Southern statesmen didn’t really care about
the tariff and that this was merely a “smoke screen”
are ignoring a massive body of historical evidence.

The South had valid complaints about the tariff. Charles Adams,
an authority on the history of taxation, observes that the Southern
states paid a disproportionately high share of the tariff:

The high tariff in the North compelled the Southern states to pay
tribute to the North, either in taxes to fatten Republican coffers
or in the inflated prices that had to be paid for Northern goods.
Besides being unfair, this violated the uniformity command of the
Constitution by having the South pay an undue proportion of the
national revenue, which was expended more in the North than in the
South: When some of the compromise tariffs of the 1830s and 1840s
are analyzed, the total revenue was around $107.5 million, with
the South paying about $90 million and the North $17.5 million.
These are round numbers but they also coincide with export numbers.
In 1860, total exports from the South totaled $214 million, and
from the North around $47 million. In both instances the percentage
for the South (taxes and exports) was approximately 87 percent,
and 17 percent for the North. To add further salt to the wounds
of the South on matters of revenue, fishing bounties for New Englanders
were approximately $13 million, paid from the national Treasury,
hence 83 percent from the South. And with a monopoly on shipping
from Southern ports, the South paid Northern shipping–$36 million.
So the numbers show that the South’s claim to be, in effect,
paying tribute to the North has a factual basis. (When In the Course
of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession, Lanham,
Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000, pp. 26-27)

Economist Frank Taussig, one of the foremost authorities on the
tariff, acknowledged that the tariff fell with “particular
weight” on the South:

The Southern members, who were almost to a man supporters of Jackson,
were opposed unconditionally not only to an increase of duties,
but to the high range which the tariff had already reached. They
were convinced, and in the main justly convinced, that the taxes
levied by the tariff fell with particular weight on the slave States.
. . . (The Tariff History of the United States, New York: G. P.
Putnam’s Sons, 1910, p. 54, emphasis added)

Jeffrey R. Hummel, a professor of economics and history, notes
the negative impact of the tariff on the Southern states and concedes
that Southern complaints about the tariff were justified:

Despite a steady decline in import duties, tariffs fell disproportionately
on Southerners, reducing their income from cotton production by
at least 10 percent just before the Civil War. . . .

At least with respect to the tariff’s adverse impact, Southerners
were not only absolutely correct but displayed a sophisticated understanding
of economics. . . . The tariff was inefficient; it not only redistributed
wealth from farmers and planters to manufacturers and laborers but
overall made the country poorer. (Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving
Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, Chicago: Open Court,
1996, pp. 39-40, 73)

Civil War scholars William and Bruce Catton summarized the economic
case that Southern leaders put forth in favor of secession:

On the economic front, long-standing Southern grievances against
Northern financial and commercial exploitation, Northern high-tariff
policies, Northern monopoly of the coastwise trade, and similar
items, were contrasted to the bright future that awaited an independent
South, secure and prosperous on a foundation of cotton, free trade,
and an inexhaustible European market with no Northern middlemen
to siphon off the profits. (Two Roads to Sumter: Abraham Lincoln,
Jefferson Davis, and the March to Civil War, Edison, New Jersey:
Castle Books, 2004, reprint of original edition, p. 251)

A major point of contention between the North and the South was
the issue of the size and power of the federal government as defined
by the Constitution. Most Northern politicians supported a loose
reading of the Constitution and wanted to expand the size and scope
of the federal government, even if that meant giving the government
powers that were not authorized by the Constitution. Most Southern
statesmen supported a strict reading of the Constitution and believed
the federal government should perform only those functions that
were expressly delegated to it by the Constitution. From the earliest
days of the republic, Southern and Northern leaders battled over
this issue. Our textbooks rarely do justice to this important fact.

Four of the eleven Southern states did not join in the first wave
of secession and did not secede over slavery. Those four states—Arkansas,
North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia—only seceded months
later when Lincoln made it clear he was going to launch an invasion
in order to “save” the Union. In fact, those states
initially voted against secession by fairly sizable majorities.
However, they believed the Union should not be maintained by force.
Therefore, when Lincoln announced he was calling up 75,000 troops
to form an invasion force, they held new votes, and in each case
the vote was strongly in favor of secession. Thus, four of the eleven
states that comprised the Confederacy seceded because of their objection
to federal coercion and not because of slavery.

Virtually no history textbooks mention the fact that each Confederate
state retained the right to abolish slavery within its borders,
and that the Confederate Constitution permitted the admission of
free states into the Confederacy. In his analysis of the Confederate
Constitution, historian Forrest McDonald says the following:

All states reserved the right to abolish slavery in their domains,
and new states could be admitted without slavery if two-thirds of
the existing states agreed—the idea being that the tier of
free states bordering the Ohio River might in time wish to join
the Confederacy. (States’ Rights and the Union, University
of Kansas Press, 2000, p. 204)

Did the South Have the Right to Secede?

I believe the evidence is clear that the South had the right to
secede. None other than Ulysses S. Grant, the commanding general
of the Union army for much of the Civil War and later a president
of the United States, admitted he believed that if any of the original
thirteen states had wanted to secede in the early days of the Union,
it was unlikely the other states would have challenged that state’s
right to do so. Grant also conceded he believed the founding fathers
would have sanctioned the right of secession rather than see a war
“between brothers.” Said Grant,

If there had been a desire on the part of any single State to withdraw
from the compact at any time while the number of States was limited
to the original thirteen, I do not suppose there would have been
any to contest the right, no matter how much the determination might
have been regretted. . . .

If they [the founding fathers] had foreseen it, the probabilities
are they would have sanctioned the right of a State or States to
withdraw rather than that there should be war between brothers.
(The Personal Memoirs Of Ulysses S. Grant, Old Saybrook, Connecticut:
Konecky & Konecky, 1992, reprint of original edition, pp. 130-131)

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts wrote the following
in 1899 in his biography of the great Daniel Webster:

When the Constitution was adopted by the votes of States at Philadelphia,
and accepted by the votes of States in popular conventions, it is
safe to say there was no man in this country, from Washington and
Hamilton on the one side to George Clinton and George Mason on the
other, who regarded our system of Government, when first adopted,
as anything but an experiment entered upon by the States, and from
which each and every State had the right to peaceably withdraw,
a right which was very likely to be exercised. (Henry Cabot Lodge,
Daniel Webster, Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company,
1899, p. 176)

There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits a state from
peacefully and democratically separating from the Union. Indeed,
the right of secession is implied in the Tenth Amendment, which

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution,
nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively,
or to the people.

The Constitution does not give the federal government the power
to force a state to remain in the Union against its will. President
James Buchanan acknowledged this fact in a message to Congress shortly
before Lincoln assumed office. Nor does the Constitution prohibit
the citizens of a state from voting to repeal their state’s
ratification of the Constitution. Therefore, by a plain reading
of the Tenth Amendment, a state has the legal right to peacefully
withdraw from the Union.

Critics of the Confederacy cite certain clauses in the Constitution
about the supremacy of federal law or about states not being allowed
to enter into treaties with foreign powers, etc., etc. However,
it goes without saying that such clauses only apply to states that
are in the Union. There’s simply nothing in the Constitution
that says a state can’t peacefully and democratically revoke
its ratification. If a state’s citizens were to vote in a
legitimate democratic process to revoke the state’s ratification
of the Constitution, either by direct vote or by convention, then
that state would no longer be bound by the Constitution. The citizens
of each state are the ultimate sovereign, not the federal government.
The federal government is supposed to be servant of the people,
not their master. Even Lloyd Paul Stryker, who opposed secession,
admitted the Southern states had an “arguable claim that no
specific section of the Constitution stood in their way,”
i.e., no section of the Constitution prohibited peaceful, democratic
separation (Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage, New York: The Macmillan
Company, 1930, p. 447).

Critics also quote a few statements made by founding father James
Madison that seem to argue against secession, but they ignore other
statements that indicate Madison believed there were cases when
a state could leave the Union. When Madison discussed the conditions
under which a state could secede from the Articles of Confederation,
without the consent of the other states, he appealed to the natural
right of self-preservation and to the principle that the safety
and happiness of society were the objects to which all political
institutions "must be sacrificed." Said Madison,

The first question [how a state could secede without approval from
the other states] is answered at once by recurring to the absolute
necessity of the case; to the great principle of self-preservation;
to the transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God, which declares
that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which
all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions
must be sacrificed. (Federalist Number 43)

This is important because the Articles of Confederation expressly
stated that the union they were creating was “perpetual”
and that that union could only be altered by the approval of all
the states. Now, if the natural right of self-preservation allowed
a state to peacefully leave the "perpetual" union of the
Articles of Confederation without the consent of the other states,
then logic demands that this natural right would also permit a state
to peacefully leave the federal Union, which was not described as
perpetual. (Some authors argue that the phrase “to form a
more perfect union” in the Constitution’s preamble means
the Union was intended to be permanent and that therefore secession
was illegal. But this phrase clearly refers to the Union’s
effectiveness, not to its duration. Something can be perfect but
not necessarily perpetual. Many Americans believed the union of
the Articles of Confederation had proven to be somewhat inefficient
in certain respects. Therefore, they thought a “more perfect
union” was needed. It is significant that even though the
framers borrowed heavily from the Articles of Confederation when
they wrote the Constitution, not once did they use the word “perpetual”
in that document to describe the new union, even though the word
“perpetual” appears five times in the Articles.)

It’s true that Madison told Alexander Hamilton that if New
York joined the Union, it had to do so "in toto and forever.”
Yet, New York entered the Union on the basis of a ratification ordinance
that specifically said its citizens had the right to resume the
powers of government if they felt the need to do so. It’s
also true that Madison told Nicholas Trist that no state could "at
pleasure" leave the Union. But Madison also told Trist there
were conditions in which a state could release itself from the Union.
In his letter to Trist, Madison said,

Applying a like view of the subject to the case of the U. S. it
results, that the compact being among individuals as embodied into
States, no State can at pleasure release itself therefrom, and set
up for itself. The compact can only be dissolved by the consent
of the other parties, or by usurpations or abuses of power justly
having that effect." (Letter from James Madison to Nicholas
P. Trist, February 15, 1830, emphasis added)

Notice that Madison was talking about a state that wanted to "release
itself" from the Union, and that he said this could be done
by the consent of the other states or by usurpations or abuses that
were so serious that they had the same effect. Thus, according to
Madison, if a state was being subjected to abuses or usurpations,
this gave the state the same right to leave the compact as if the
other states had agreed to the separation. Notice, too, that Madison
didn’t say, “No state can release itself from the compact.”
He said no state could “at pleasure” release itself
from the compact, which in and of itself implied there were conditions
under which a state could separate. And, as noted, Madison gave
those conditions—the consent of the other states or egregious
abuses or usurpations.

Madison’s statements to Trist are consistent with what Madison
said about states rights and the nature of the federal government.
After all, it was Madison who said that the states had the right
to decide when the federal government was abusing its powers and
that in such cases the states could interpose their authority in
order to protect their citizens. In his report on the Virginia Resolution,
Madison said,

The constitution of the United States was formed by the sanction
of the states, given by each in its sovereign capacity. It adds
to the stability and dignity, as well as to the authority, of the
constitution, that it rests upon this legitimate and solid foundation.
The states, then, being the parties to the constitutional compact,
and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity that there
can be no tribunal above their authority to decide, in the last
resort, whether the compact made by them be violated and consequently
that, as the parties to it, they must themselves decide, in the
last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to
require their interposition. (The Madison Report in the Virginia
Report of 1799-1800)

The great early American constitutional scholar William Rawle said
a state had the right to secede. Rawle was a contemporary of founding
fathers Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and was appointed by
George Washington as the first U.S. Attorney for Pennsylvania. Rawle’s
book A View of the Constitution of the United States was used as
a legal textbook at a number of universities, including West Point,
Dartmouth, and Harvard. To this day, scholars who debate legal issues
relating to the First and Second Amendments refer to Rawle’s
work. On the issue of secession, Rawle said,

It depends on the state itself to retain or abolish the principle
of representation, because it depends on itself whether it will
continue a member of the Union. To deny this right would be inconsistent
with the principle on which all our political systems are founded,
which is, that the people have in all cases, a right to determine
how they will be governed.

This right must be considered as an ingredient in the original
composition of the general government, which, though not expressed,
was mutually understood. . . . (A View of the Constitution of the
United States, 2nd Edition, 1829, Vol. 4, p. 571)

Another early American legal giant, George Tucker, also said a
state had the right to secede. Like Rawle, Tucker was a contemporary
of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and corresponded with the
former. Tucker came to be known as the “American Blackstone.”
Tucker was a professor of law at the University of William and Mary.
He served as the chief justice of the Virginia supreme court and
was appointed as a federal district court judge by James Madison.
Tucker’s 1803 edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries,
which he annotated to American law, was widely used for the teaching
of law in the United States for years. On the issue of secession,
Tucker wrote that the states’ participation in the Union was
voluntary and that each state had the right to resume to “the
most unlimited extent” the functions that it had delegated
to the federal government:

The federal government, then, appears to be the organ through which
the united republics communicate with foreign nations and with each
other. Their submission to its operation is voluntary: its councils,
its engagements, its authority are theirs, modified, and united.
Its sovereignty is an emanation from theirs, not a flame by which
they have been consumed, nor a vortex in which they are swallowed
up. Each is still a perfect state, still sovereign, still independent,
and still capable, should the situation require, to resume the exercise
of its functions as such in the most unlimited extent. (Tucker,
editor, Blackstone’s Commentaries: With Notes of Reference
to the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Government of the United
States, Volume 1, Philadelphia: William Birch and Abraham Small,
1803, Appendix: Note D, Section 3:IV)

The Union was never meant to be held together by force. The Southern
states joined the Union voluntarily, and they should have been able
to leave it voluntarily. A key principle of Americanism is the sacred
right of self-government, that government should only govern “with
the consent of the governed.” This noble idea is expressed
in the Declaration of Independence. America came into existence
by secession from England. There was only a war because England
wouldn’t allow the American colonies to leave in peace. George
Washington’s secretary of state, Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts,
rightly said that America was founded on the principle of secession.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence
and the third president of the United States, said in a letter to
William Crawford in 1816 that if a state wanted to leave the Union,
he would not hesitate to say “Let us separate,” even
if he didn’t agree with the reasons the state wanted to leave.

The principle of peaceful separation was as American as apple pie.
But Lincoln, relying on an utterly erroneous understanding of the
founding of the Union, declared that secession was “treason,”
“insurrection,” and “rebellion.” If Lincoln
had been alive during the Revolutionary War and had used the same
kind of reasoning that he used against Southern secession, he would
have sided with the British.

Lincoln defenders argue that secession was a hostile act because
it constituted resistance to federal authority and that therefore
secession was in fact “treason, rebellion, and insurrection.”
This is specious, totalitarian reasoning. By this logic, all independence
movements could be viewed as illegal by definition. Furthermore,
if the Southern states had the right to secede, then federal authority
ceased to exist in those states when they withdrew from the Union.
Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon put it this way in a speech to the
Senate on March 2, 1861, just days before the Confederacy was formed:

My residence is in the North, but I have never seen the day, and
I never shall, when I will refuse justice as readily to the South
as to the North. . . .

Sir, if there is, as I contend, the right of secession, then, whenever
a State exercises that right, this Government has no laws in that
State to execute, nor has it any property in any such state that
can be protected by the power of this Government. In attempting,
however, to substitute the smooth phrases “executing the laws”
and “protecting public property” for coercion, for civil
war, we have an important concession: that is, that this Government
dare not go before the people with a plain avowal of its real purposes
and of their consequences. No, sir; the policy is to inveigle the
people of the North into civil war, by masking the designs in smooth
and ambiguous terms. (Congressional Globe, Second Session, Thirty-Sixth
Congress, p. 1347, in Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the
Confederate Government, Volume 1, New York: De Capo Press, 1990,
reprint of original edition, pp. 216-217)

In addition, the South had no desire to overthrow the federal government.
The South seceded in a peaceful, democratic manner, with the support
of the overwhelming majority of Southern citizens. The Southern
states used the same process to secede that the original thirteen
states used to ratify the U.S. Constitution, i.e., by voting in
special conventions comprised of delegates who were elected by the
people. The one exception was Tennessee, which, instead of holding
a convention, passed a secession resolution in the state legislature
and then held a referendum in which secession won by a margin of
more than two to one. Two of the states that held conventions, Texas
and Virginia, submitted their conventions’ decisions to a
popular vote, even though the delegates to the conventions had been
elected by the people; in both cases, secession won by overwhelming
majorities—by a margin of three to one in Texas and nearly
four to one in Virginia. Furthermore, most Southerners believed
secession would be peaceful. In fact, it’s revealing that
the early correspondence of the first Confederate secretary of war,
Leroy Walker, "clearly indicates he did not expect war"
(Rembert Patrick, Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet, Louisiana State
University Press, 1944, p. 106).

On the basis of the natural right to self-government alone, as
expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the South had the
right to leave the Union in peace. The declaration says that governments
derive their just powers “from the consent of the governed,”
that people can “dissolve the political bonds which have connected
them with another” and can then assume “the separate
and equal status” to which “the laws of nature and nature’s
God entitle them,” and that people have a natural right to
“alter or abolish” their form of government.

Lincoln defenders contend that the Declaration of Independence
merely refers to the natural right to revolt against tyranny. They
argue there is no natural right of peaceful separation, only a natural
right of violent revolution to escape oppression. This strikes me
as a rather undemocratic viewpoint. For one thing, a revolution
does not necessarily have to be violent. The Glorious Revolution

in England, for example, was peaceful. Furthermore, is independence
only to be achieved by violence? Is independence only for those
who can fight their way to it? Do only the strong get to enjoy self-government?
This is not what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he wrote the
Declaration of Independence, and it’s not what the other founding
fathers had in mind when they embraced the document (McDonald, States’
Rights and the Union, pp. 7-11). Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi,
who later became the Confederate president, commented on this issue
in a speech he gave in the Senate two months before the Confederacy
was established:

Now, sir, we are confusing language very much. Men speak of revolution;
and when they say revolution they mean blood. Our fathers meant
nothing of the sort. When they spoke of revolution they meant an
unalienable right. When they declared as an unalienable right the
power of the people to abrogate and modify their form of government
whenever it did not answer the ends for which it was established,
they did not mean that they were to sustain that by brute force.
They meant that it was a right; and force could only be invoked
when that right was wrongfully denied. Great Britain denied the
right in the case of the colonies, and therefore our revolution
for independence was bloody. If Great Britain had admitted the great
American doctrine, there would have been no blood shed. . . .

If the Declaration of Independence be true (and who here gainsays
it?), every community may dissolve its connection with any other
community previously made, and have no other obligation than that
which results from the breach of an alliance between States. Is
it to be supposed; could any man . . . come to the conclusion that
the men who fought the battles of the Revolution . . . in order
that they might possess those unalienable rights which they had
declared—terminated their great efforts by transmitting posterity
to a condition in which they could only gain those rights by force?
If so, the blood of the Revolution was shed in vain. . . . (Speech
in the U.S. Senate, January 10, 1861, in The Rise and Fall of the
Confederate Government, Volume 1, pp. 531-532)

John O’Sullivan, the editor of the influential United States
Magazine and the man who coined the famous phrase “Manifest
Destiny” because he believed God wanted America to expand,
said that the South had the right to leave in peace and that to
deny that right violated the Declaration of Independence. O’Sullivan
argued that the North’s attempt to force the South back into
the Union served “to stultify our revolution; to blaspheme
our very Declaration of Independence; to repudiate all our history”
(Grant, North Over South, p. 165; cf. Robert Divine, Robert Divine,
T. H. Bren, George Fredrickson, and R. Hal Williams, editors, America
Past and Present, Fifth Edition, New York: Longman, 1999, p. 360).

What Caused the War?

The war was fought because Lincoln refused to allow the South to
go in peace. Other Republican leaders and certain Northern business
interests played key roles in the decision to use force, but ultimately
Lincoln was the one who had to make the decision, and he chose to
launch an invasion. The fighting and dying started when federal
armies invaded the South. That’s why most of the battles were
fought in the Southern states. If Lincoln had not launched an invasion,
there would have been no war.

The Confederacy did not want war. One of the first things Jefferson
Davis did after assuming office as president of the Confederacy
was to send a peace delegation to Washington, D.C., in an effort
to establish friendly ties with the federal government (Cooper,
Jefferson Davis, American, pp. 360-362; Kenneth Davis, Don’t
Know Much About the Civil War, New York: HarperCollins Publishers,
1996, pp. 156-157). The Confederacy offered to pay the South’s
share of the national debt and to pay compensation for all federal
installations in the Southern states (Charles Roland, The Confederacy,
University of Chicago Press, 1960, p. 28; Patrick, Jefferson Davis
and His Cabinet, p. 77; William C. Davis, Look Away! A History of
the Confederate States of America, New York: The Free Press, 2002,
p. 87). The Confederacy also announced that Northern ships would
continue to enjoy free navigation of the Mississippi River (Hummel,
Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, p. 138; Davis, The Rise
and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 1, pp. 210-213).
Yet, Lincoln rejected all Confederate peace offers and insisted
that federal armies would invade if the Southern states didn’t
renounce their independence and recognize federal authority.

“Why,” one may ask, “did Confederates sometimes
refer to themselves as ‘rebels’?” Actually, many
Confederates resented that term (see, for example, Jefferson Davis,
The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 1, pp. 282-284).
Those Confederates who described themselves as “rebels”
did so only in the sense that they were “rebelling”
against being invaded and subjugated. Lincoln, on the other hand,
labeled Confederates as “rebels” in order to reinforce
his fraudulent claim that the South was trying to overthrow the
federal government.

It should be pointed out that many Northern citizens opposed the
war and believed the South should be allowed to leave in peace.
Dozens of Northern newspapers expressed the view that the Southern
states had the right to peacefully leave the Union and that it would
be wrong to use force to compel them to stay. Even President James
Buchanan told Congress in an official message shortly before Lincoln
assumed office that the federal government had no right to use force
against the seceded states.

Who Started the War?

The standard textbook answer to this question is that the South
obviously started the war because it “fired the first shot”
by attacking Fort Sumter, which was located in the harbor of Charleston,
South Carolina. Most textbooks don’t mention several facts
that put the attack in proper perspective. For example, after the
Fort Sumter incident, the Confederacy continued to express its desire
for peaceful relations with the North. Not a single federal soldier
was killed in the attack. The Confederates allowed the federal troops
at the fort to return to the North in peace after they surrendered.
South Carolina and then the Confederacy offered to pay compensation
for the fort. Lincoln later admitted he deliberately provoked the
attack so he could use it as justification for an invasion. The
Confederates only attacked the fort after they learned that Lincoln
had sent an armed naval convoy to resupply the federal garrison
at the fort. The sending of the convoy violated the repeated promises
of Lincoln’s secretary of state, William Seward, that the
fort would be evacuated. Seward continued to promise the Confederacy
that the fort would be evacuated even after he knew that Lincoln
had decided to send the convoy. Major John Anderson, the Union officer
who commanded the federal garrison at the fort, opposed the sending
of the convoy, because he felt it would violate the assurances that
the fort would be evacuated, because he knew it would be viewed
as a hostile act, and because he did not want war. Several weeks
before the Fort Sumter incident, Lincoln virtually declared war
on the South in his inaugural address, even though he knew the Confederacy
wanted peaceful relations.

In his inaugural speech, given weeks before the attack on Fort
Sumter, Lincoln threatened to invade the seceded states if they
didn’t continue to pay federal “duties and imposts”
(the tariff) and/or if they didn’t allow the federal government
to occupy and maintain all federal installations within their borders.
Imagine what the American colonists would have thought if the British
had said to them, “We want peace. But, we’re going to
invade you if you don’t keep paying our tariff and/or if you
don’t allow us to occupy and maintain all British installations
within your borders.” The colonists would have rightly regarded
this as a virtual declaration of war. Of course, in effect, the
British did say this to the colonies. This was the same position
that Lincoln presented to the Confederate states weeks before the
Fort Sumter attack. Furthermore, five months earlier, some Republicans
in Congress publicly swore “by everything in the heavens above
and the earth beneath” that they would convert the seceded
states “into a wilderness” (James McPherson, The Battle
Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, New York: Ballantine Books, 1988,
p. 251).

Jefferson Davis argued that the attack on Fort Sumter was an act
of self-defense:

The attempt to represent us as the aggressors in the conflict which
ensued is as unfounded as the complaint made by the wolf against
the lamb in the familiar fable. He who makes the assault is not
necessarily he that strikes the first blow or fires the first gun.
To have awaited further strengthening of their position by land
and naval forces, with hostile purpose now declared, for the sake
of having them “fire the first gun” would have been
as unwise as it would be to hesitate to strike down the arm of the
assailant, who levels a deadly weapon at one’s breast, until
he has actually fired. After the assault was made by the hostile
descent of the fleet, the reduction of Fort Sumter was a measure
of defense rendered absolutely and immediately necessary. (The Rise
and Fall of the Confederate Government, Peter Smith Edition, Gloucester,
Massachusetts: Peter Smith, 1971, reprint of original edition, p.
154, original emphasis)

Davis had a valid point. The naval convoy that Lincoln sent to
Fort Sumter was no innocent “relief” flotilla. It included
warships and over one thousand troops. It was being sent to Charleston
against the wishes of South Carolina and the Confederacy, and in
violation of the repeated high-level assurances that the fort would
be evacuated. Any country on earth would view the sending of an
unwanted armed naval convoy into one of its major ports as an act
of aggression. The Confederates were well aware that Lincoln had
already threatened to invade the Confederate states if they did
not in effect give up their independence, and that some congressional
Republicans had already sworn to turn the Deep South states “into
a wilderness.” When all the facts are considered, the Confederate
attack on Fort Sumter can be viewed as a justified defensive reaction
to the impending arrival of an unwanted naval force.

If Lincoln had desired peace, he knew all he had to do was evacuate
Fort Sumter, as his own secretary of state had been promising would
be done for weeks. When the Confederate authorities were told the
fort was going to be evacuated, Confederate forces stopped building
up the defenses around the harbor and celebrated. Across the harbor,
Major Anderson was grateful the fort would be evacuated and that
therefore North and South would separate peacefully:

Confidently, he [Seward] told Supreme Court Justice John Campbell
that Sumter was to be evacuated in three days. Campbell relayed
this to the commissioners [the Confederate peace commissioners]
and they promptly informed President Davis. The news of Anderson’s
imminent departure was believed in the South. Troops stopped work
on the Charleston batteries and fired salutes in celebration. The
major [Major Anderson] too assumed it was true and thanked God that
“the separation which has been inevitable for months, will
be consummated without the shedding of one droop of blood.”
Since war was thus avoided he hoped that the departed states “may
at some future time be won back by conciliation and justice.”
(Cisco, Taking A Stand, pp. 105-106)

But, sadly, Lincoln didn’t pursue peace with the Confederacy.
For a while it seemed as though he was prepared to evacuate Fort
Sumter, in spite of his earlier statements to the contrary. Initially
all but two of his cabinet members urged evacuation, as did his
general-in-chief, General Winfield Scott. However, Radical Republicans
and influential Northern business interests applied intense pressure
on Lincoln and on his cabinet not to evacuate the fort. Radicals
in the Senate threatened impeachment if the fort were evacuated
(Catton and Catton, Two Roads to Sumter, p. 277). Once the low Confederate
tariff was announced, powerful Northern business interests came
out strongly opposed to peace with the Confederacy, and Lincoln’s
cabinet quickly reversed its position evacuation. As the pressure
for aggression mounted, Lincoln decided to provoke an attack on
the fort in order to use the attack as a pretext for invasion and
to whip up a majority of the Northern public into a war frenzy against
the South. Some Northerners saw through Lincoln’s ploy. But
in the heat of the moment many Northerners were fooled by it, while
others were already so anti-Southern that they didn’t care.
A number of Northern newspapers opined that Lincoln had provoked
the attack in order to use it as an excuse to wage war on the South.
Lincoln himself later admitted in two letters that he provoked the
attack for that purpose (Francis Butler Simkins, A History of the
South, Third Edition, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963, pp. 213,
215-216; J. G. Randall and David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction,
Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1960, p. 174).

Some Northern leaders who wanted peace urged that Fort Sumter be
evacuated. Among those leaders was General-In-Chief Winfield Scott
and Senator Stephen Douglas, one of the most prominent Northern
members of the U.S. Senate. Scott and Douglas both recognized that
the continued federal occupation of Fort Sumter was a virtual declaration
of war against the Confederacy. Any country on earth would strongly
resent the unwanted occupation of an island in one of its major

Before the Confederacy was established, South Carolina, the first
state to secede, sent commissioners to Washington in an effort to
negotiate the peaceful evacuation of the federal garrison in Charleston.
The garrison was then located at Fort Moultrie. Without warning
and without specific orders to do so, the garrison destroyed the
guns and gun carriages at Fort Moultrie, abandoned it, and then
occupied Fort Sumter. Understandably, Southerners viewed this as
a hostile act. President Buchanan was still in office at this time.
He had no intention of invading the South, and he had not ordered
the occupation of Fort Sumter, but he wavered about evacuating the
fort. He was under intense pressure from Northern hardliners on
the one hand and from Southern members of Congress and peace advocates
on the other hand. He eventually decided against evacuation. One
of the commissioners from South Carolina, I. W. Hayne, said the
following in a letter to President Buchanan after he refused to
evacuate the fort:

You say that the fort was garrisoned for our protection, and is
held for the same purposes for which it has ever been held since
its construction. Are you not aware, that to hold, in the territory
of a foreign power, a fortress against her will, avowedly for the
purpose of protecting her citizens, is perhaps the highest insult
which one government can offer to another? But Fort Sumter was never
garrisoned at all until South Carolina had dissolved her connection
with your government. This garrison entered it in the night, with
every circumstance of secrecy, after spiking the guns and burning
the gun-carriages and cutting down the flag-staff of an adjacent
fort, which was then abandoned. South Carolina had not taken Fort
Sumter into her own possession, only because of her misplaced confidence
in a government which deceived her. (In Davis, The Rise and Fall
of the Confederate Government, Peter Smith Edition, p. 119)

Republicans protested loudly over the fact that several Southern
states seized numerous federal installations before Lincoln assumed
office and in a few cases before the state had voted to secede.
Modern critics tend to make a mountain out of a molehill over this
issue, as if those seizures alone justified a brutal invasion. Nearly
all the seizures occurred after the state had already seceded, so
in those cases the state arguably had every right to assume control
of federal facilities within its borders. Most of the relatively
few pre-secession seizures took place when there was no doubt the
state was going to secede. In one case, local citizens seized a
federal installation on their own initiative. When the governor
learned of the seizure, he ordered the citizens to leave the facility.
Not one of the seizures involved the loss of life. A number of the
federal facilities that were seized were of little consequence and
were manned only by small garrisons. Admittedly, the pre-secession
seizures, though few in number, were unwise and arguably illegal.
However, let’s keep in mind that these seizures posed no threat
to the federal government, that they were bloodless, and that the
Confederacy offered to pay compensation for all federal installations
in the South. The seizures certainly didn’t provide any credible
justification for a federal invasion, and they were hardly what
one could call “aggression” in any meaningful sense
of the word.

The Emancipation Proclamation

Everyone can agree that slavery needed to be abolished. However,
the Emancipation Proclamation, signed on January 1, 1863, left over
400,000 slaves in bondage. Let’s take a moment to consider
the purpose, nature, and legality of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The proclamation was a war measure, as the document itself states.
The Radical Republicans hoped the proclamation would produce a slave
revolt in the South, even if this resulted in the deaths of thousands
of women and children on plantations and farms. (Perhaps it’s
an indication of how most slaves were treated that no such revolt
ever occurred, even though many plantations and farms were being
run by women and children at the time, since most of the men were
engaged in the war effort.)

The proclamation did not free a single slave in any of the four
Union slave states nor in any of the regions of the South that were
then under Union control. The proclamation excluded the slaves in
those areas. The proclamation only applied to slaves in the Confederate
states, where Lincoln had no authority to enforce it. Slavery continued
in the Northern slave states and in the South for the rest of the
war and wasn’t abolished until the Thirteenth Amendment was
ratified in late 1865. Historians John Blum and Bruce Catton commented
on the limited nature of the proclamation:

The Emancipation Proclamation asserted freedom for slaves in those
areas that were not under control of the federal government and
left slavery untouched in areas where federal control was effective.
It seemed a halting measure of dubious effect and shaky legality,
and the Confederates denounced it as a call for a slave revolt.
(In Blum and Catton, Edmund Morgan, Arthur Schlesinger, Kenneth
Stampp, and C. Vann Woodward, editors, The National Experience:
A History of the United States, Second Edition, New York: Harcourt,
Brace, & World, 1968, p. 360)

African-American scholar Lerone Bennett documents that Lincoln
only issued the proclamation under intense pressure from the Radical
Republicans, who were threatening to cut off funds to the army if
emancipation wasn’t made a war objective, and that Lincoln
only began to seriously consider the Radicals’ demands after
Union forces suffered several defeats (Bennett, Forced Into Glory:
Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, Chicago: Johnson Publishing
Company, 2000, pp. 23-24, 415-420, 498-504; see also Klingaman,
Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, pp. 139, 148-149,
200-202). Bennett also shows that Lincoln sought to undermine the
proclamation almost as soon as he issued it.

The proclamation provided no compensation for slaveholders, even
though Lincoln himself had said this should be done, and even though
most slaveholders treated their slaves humanely (as even many abolitionists
had once been willing to admit). Few Northern abolitionists had
ever supported compensated emancipation. The Radical Republicans
certainly weren’t about to support such a plan. They didn’t
care that several Northern states had reaped fantastic profits from
the slave trade. Nor did they care that when most Northern states
had abolished slavery they had done so gradually and in a manner
that enabled Northern slaveholders to recover the cost of their

If the Southern states were still actually in the Union, as Lincoln
and other Republicans incredibly claimed, then the Emancipation
Proclamation was unconstitutional. Neither Lincoln nor Congress
had the right to abolish slavery in any state. The only legal ways
to abolish it would have been by a constitutional amendment or by
the states abolishing it on their own.

Of course, the Southern states had in fact left the Union, and
everyone knew it. Lincoln only denied this fact because he knew
the federal government had no constitutional right to invade states
that had peacefully and democratically separated from the Union.
Since the Southern states were no longer part of the federal compact,
the Emancipation Proclamation amounted to an attempt to incite a
slave revolt in another country, in spite of the proclamation’s
disclaimer to the contrary. Certainly the Radicals hoped the proclamation
would spark a slave revolt, regardless of the cost in human lives.
American leaders reacted angrily when the British tried to incite
a slave revolt in the American colonies during the Revolutionary
War. This was a serious threat, since slaves were held in each of
the thirteen colonies at the time. The British offered freedom to
American slaves who would fight in the British army, and they encouraged
slaves to sabotage the colonial war effort. Not surprisingly, tens
of thousands of slaves flocked to British army encampments. Fortunately,
however, not enough slaves fought for the British to turn the tide
against the colonies. At the end of the war, at least 18,000 former
slaves accompanied British troops as they evacuated New York, Charleston,
Savannah, and other cities (Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving
Free Men, p. 10).

If the Emancipation Proclamation had covered all slaves, if it
had included compensation for slaveholders, and if it had contained
guarantees against a slave revolt, it would have been on solid moral
ground. It still would have been unconstitutional, but it would
have been consistent, fair, and moral. However, the proclamation
contained none of these things. It was intended as a war measure.
It left Northern slaves in bondage. Its real purpose was to advance
the effort to subjugate the South, even if that meant causing the
deaths of thousands of women and children. The Radicals and other
Republicans were using Southern slaves as pawns in their effort
to conquer the South.

Republicans, the North, and Racism

(NOTE: In this section it will be necessary to quote some offensive
words and statements from the Civil War era. I apologize to those
readers who are offended by them.)

The same Republican-controlled Congress that eventually made forceful
emancipation a secondary goal of the war and that imposed oppressive
Reconstruction rule on the South after the war, also sanctioned
the federal government’s terrible mistreatment of the American
Indians. Historian C. Vann Woodward put it this way:

The same Congress that devised Radical Reconstruction . . . approved
strict segregation and inequality for the Indian of the West. (In
Blum and Catton et al, editors, The National Experience, p. 416)

With the Republicans firmly in control of the federal government,
the Union army began a series of brutal campaigns against the American
Indians a few months after the Confederate commanding general, Robert
E. Lee, surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia. Federal forces and
Northern militias cheated and abused the Indians on certain occasions
during the war, but the federal campaigns against the Indians that
started with the Sioux War in 1865 were vicious and remain a stain
on our history. Under Republican rule, the federal government ordered
forced relocations, engaged in shameful treaty violations, and authorized
merciless attacks in which thousands of Indians, including many
women and children, were killed. Generals William Tecumseh Sherman
and Phil Sheridan, fresh from having ravaged the South, were responsible
for many of those attacks. The general who ordered the first post-war
campaign against the Indians was Ulysses S. Grant. Much of the worst
mistreatment of the Indians occurred when Grant was president (1868-1876).
Republicans occupied the White House for all but seven of the thirty-one
years from 1861 to 1892 (three of those seven years were under Lincoln’s
vice president, Andrew Johnson, and the remaining four years didn’t
come until 1884-1888). The Republicans controlled Congress for the
majority of that period as well, especially from 1861 to 1874. Woodward
described the federal treatment of the Indians from the beginning
of the Civil War until 1890:

Indian war broke out in Colorado about the time the Civil War was
starting in the East. The immediate provocation was the effort of
government officials to force the Arapaho and Cheyenne to abandon
all claim to the area that had been granted them forever only ten
years before. . . . Chief Black Kettle of the Cheyenne, after being
assured of protection, was surprised and trapped by a force led
by Colonel John M. Chivington on the night of November 28, 1864.
Ignoring Black Kettle’s attempts to surrender, the militia
shot, knifed, scalped, clubbed, and mutilated the Indians indiscriminately
until the ground was literally littered with men, women, and children.
. . .

Hardly had peace been restored to the Southwest in the fall of
1865 when Indian war broke out in the Northwest. The bloody Sioux
War of 1865-67 was brought on by many forces, but it was triggered
by the demands of minors who had invaded the Sioux country. . .

The Chivington and Fetterman massacres, together with scores of
minor battles and endless shooting scrapes, prompted the federal
government to review its Indian policy in 1867. . . .

The new policy meant that the Indians were to abandon their way
of life, submit to segregation in small out-of-the-way reservations
on land spurned by the white man, and accept government tutelage
in learning “to walk the white man’s road.” The
Black Hills section of the Dakota Territory was to be set aside
for the northern tribes. Poor lands in the western part of what
is now Oklahoma, of which the five civilized tribes of the Southeast
had just been defrauded on false charges of treason because of their
Confederate sympathies, were to be divided among the plains Indians
of the Southwest. . . .

But many Indians refused to renounce their way of life and enter
meekly into the reservations. When they took the warparth in the
summer of 1868, General Sherman unleashed his troopers and launched
a decade of remorseless war against them. “I will urge General
Sheridan to push his measures for the utter destruction and subjugation
of all who are outside [the reservations] in a hostile attitude,”
Sherman wrote. “I propose that [he] shall prosecute the war
with vindictive earnestness against all hostile Indians, till they
are obliterated or beg for mercy. . . .”

By the end of 1874 all seemed calm. Then in 1875, when government
authorities permitted tens of thousands of gold-prospectors to crowd
into the Black Hills, the outraged Sioux and other northern Indians
reacted violently. . . . the Indians were compelled to surrender
the following fall. . . . The Nez Perce Indians of Oregon staged
a rebellion that was repressed in 1877, and the survivors of this
once-proud tribe were herded into a barren preserve in Indian Territory
to be ravaged by disease and hunger. The last incident of the Indian
wars was the sickening “Battle” of Wounded Knee in 1890,
in which United States troops mowed down two hundred Dakota men,
women, and children. (In Blum and Catton et al, editors, The National
Experience, pp. 416-417)

I agree with Thomas DiLorenzo’s point that the Republicans’
treatment of the Indians raises questions about their professed
concern for social justice:

Before being elected president, and while still commander of the
U.S. Army, Ulysses S. Grant gave General Sherman the assignment,
in July of 1865, of conducting a campaign of ethnic genocide against
the Plains Indians to make way for the government-subsidized railroads.
“We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check
and stop the progress of the railroads,” Sherman wrote to
Grant in 1866. “We must act with vindictive earnestness against
the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, and children.”

The eradication of the Plains Indians was yet another subsidy to
the railroad industry, albeit an indirect one. Rather than paying
for rights of way across Indian lands, as James J. Hill’s
nonsubsidized Great Northern Railroad did, the government-subsidized
Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads got the government to
either kill or place on reservations every last Indian by 1890.

Sherman instructed his army that “during an assault [on an
Indian village] the soldiers can not pause to distinguish between
male and female, or even discriminate as to age. As long as resistance
is made, death must be meted out.” As Sherman biographer John
Marszalek wrote, “Sherman viewed Indians as he viewed recalcitrant
Southerners during the war and newly freed people after: resisters
to the legitimate forces of an orderly society.” Of course,
the chaos of entire Indian villages, women and children included,
being wiped out by federal artillery is hardly an “orderly”
scene. . . .

Sherman and Sheridan purposely planned their raids during the winter
months when they knew entire families would be together. They killed
all the animals as well as the people, ensuring that any survivors
would not survive for very long. . . .

The fact that the war against the Plains Indians began just three
months after Lee’s surrender calls into question yet again
the notion that racial injustices in the South were the primary
motivation for Northerners’ willingness to wage such a long
and destructive war. No political party purporting to be sensitive
to racial injustice could possibly have even contemplated doing
to the Indians what the United States government did to them.

Both the Southern Confederates and the Indians stood in the way
of the Whig/Republican dream of a North American economic empire,
complete with a subsidized transcontinental railroad, a nationalized
banking system, and protectionist tariffs. Consequently, both groups
were conquered and subjugated by the most violent means. (The Real
Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary
War, Paperback Edition, New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003, pp.

Another example of Republican hypocrisy was the Republican Party’s
platform for the 1868 presidential election. Ulysses S. Grant ran
for president on this platform, and won handily. The platform stated
that the Southern states should be forced to allow blacks to vote
but that the Northern states should be allowed to decide this issue
for themselves. The Republicans took this position even though every
Northern state that had voted on amendments for black voting rights
in the preceding three years had soundly defeated those amendments.
Republican leaders knew that racism was so widespread in the North
that they would lose the election if they advocated forcing the
Northern states to allow blacks to vote. Many Republicans themselves
weren’t enthusiastic about voting rights for Northern blacks

If the Republicans’ primary concern had been to ensure that
blacks were allowed to vote, they would have insisted on black voting

rights in all regions of the country. If they had done so, at least
their position would have been consistent and morally defensible.
But they didn’t do this. Furthermore, subsequent events suggest
that the Republicans enforced black voting rights in the South primarily
to expand their political power into that region; once they achieved
that power they shamelessly plundered Southern taxpayers of all
races. When the Republicans felt they no longer needed to maintain
their power in the South, most of them seemed to lose interest in
voting rights for African Americans.

Many Republican leaders, including some of the Radicals, held racist
views. Thaddeus Stevens, the leader of the Radicals in the House,
not only opposed racial integration but believed blacks were less
intelligent than whites and, in the words of friendly biographer
Fawn Brodie, “insisted that he had never held to the doctrine
of Negro equality” (Fawn Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens: Scourge
of the South, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1959, p. 193;
Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, p. 300). Incidentally,
Stevens also believed the Constitution was “a worthless bit
of old parchment” (Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 292). Another
powerful Radical in the House, George Julian, lectured his fellow
Republicans about their racism, saying, “The real trouble
is that we hate the negro. It is not his ignorance that offends
us, but his color. . . .” (Kenneth Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction,
1865-1877, Vintage Books Edition, New York: Vintage Books, 1965,
p. 102). Benjamin Wade, a leading Radical in the Senate, was overheard
“railing about too many ‘nigger’ cooks in the capital”
and complaining that he had eaten so many meals “cooked by
Niggers” that he could “smell and taste the Nigger all
over” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation,
p. 53). In the 1860 election campaign, numerous Republican leaders
championed their party as the true “White Man’s Party”
that would keep the western territories safe for white labor (McPherson,
Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction, New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1982, p. 123). Lincoln’s secretary of state, William
Seward, the man who claimed in 1858 that there was an “irrepressible
conflict” between the free states and the slaveholding states,
spoke for many Republicans when he said,

The North has nothing to do with the Negroes. I have no more concern
for them than I have for the Hottentots. . . . They are not of our
race. (In Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation,
p. 295)

Lincoln himself held racist views. As a politician in Illinois,
Lincoln voted to deny blacks the right to vote, and he supported
the state’s oppressive “Black Code.” Lincoln used
the N-word, even in public statements, and even as president. Lincoln
referred to the Declaration of Independence as “the white
man’s charter of freedom.” He also said he did not support
allowing blacks to be citizens, explaining, “I am not in favor
of negro citizenship” (The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln,
Volume 3, edited by Roy Basler, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1952-1955,
p. 179). In an 1858 speech, Lincoln left no doubt about his views
on race:

I will say, then, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of
bringing about in any way, the social and political equality of
the white and black races; that I am not nor ever have been in favor
of making voters of the free negroes, or jurors, or qualifying them
to hold office, or having them to marry white people. I will say
in addition, that there is a physical difference between the white
and black races, which, I suppose, will forever forbid the two races
living together upon terms of social and political equality, and
inasmuch as they cannot so live, that while they do remain together,
there must be the position of superior and inferior, that I as much
as any other man am in favor of the superior position being assigned
to the white man. (Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858,
New York: The Library of America, 1989, edited by Don Fehrenbacher,
p. 751)

To be fair, it should be noted that Lincoln was by no means alone
in his views. The sad truth is that in those days the vast majority
of white Americans, in all parts of the country, shared Lincoln’s
racial attitudes. Most whites believed that the white race was the
superior race and that therefore blacks and other minorities belonged
to inferior races. Nearly all textbooks give the false impression
that white supremacy and racism were mainly confined to the South,
but these problems were widespread in the North as well. Numerous
historians have acknowledged this fact. In many cases, the “free”
states weren’t very free for blacks. Historian Robert Cruden:

To understand something of the nature of that problem we must look
at the position of the American Negro in the 1860s. . . . Throughout
the nation there were 488,000 free Negroes. . . . Most free Negroes—258,000—lived
in the South. . . .

“Free people of color” were welcome in few places.
In the North they were almost universally segregated, excluded from
public life, and their children barred from white public schools.
In those areas where separate Negro schools were provided they were
inadequately financed and instruction was poor. . . .

The situation of the black American when the war ended was ambiguous.
. . . Northerners as a whole, willing to concede freedom, were hostile
to equality. Many of them dreaded an incursion of black folk after
the war—especially among lower paid workers who feared Negro
competition and some not so poorly paid who resented possible Negro
entry into their crafts. The use of Negroes as strikebreakers during
the war and their employment in areas where whites were out of work
resulted in agitation and riots and intensified anti-Negro feeling.

Such sentiment, however, was by no means confined to workingmen.
Between 1865 and 1867 voters in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Ohio
rejected proposals for Negro suffrage [the right to vote]; in 1868
only 8 out of 16 Northern states permitted Negroes to vote. Oregon
even continued its pre-war prohibition against the entry of free
Negroes. . . . (The Negro in Reconstruction, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall,
Inc., 1969, pp. 6, 12-13)

Historian James McPherson:

The Indiana constitutional convention of 1851 adopted a provision
forbidding black migration into the state. This supplemented the
state’s laws barring blacks already there from voting, serving on
juries or in the militia, testifying against whites in court, marrying
whites, or going to school with whites. Iowa and Illinois had similar
laws on the books and banned black immigration by statute in 1851
and 1853 respectively. These measures reflected the racist sentiments
of most whites in those states. (Ordeal By Fire, p. 80)

African-American scholars John Franklin and Alfred Moss:

There can be no doubt that many blacks were sorely mistreated in
the North and West. Observers like Fanny Kemble and Frederick L.
Olmsted mentioned incidents in their writings. Kemble said of Northern
blacks, “They are not slaves indeed, but they are pariahs,
debarred from every fellowship save with their own despised race.
. . . All hands are extended to thrust them out, all fingers point
at their dusky skin, all tongues . . . have learned to turn the
very name of their race into an insult and a reproach.” Olmsted
seems to have believed the Louisiana black who told him that they
could associate with whites more freely in the South than in the
North and that he preferred to live in the South because he was
less likely to be insulted there. (From Slavery to Freedom: A History
of African Americans, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, p. 185)

Historian Joanne Pope Melish:

The emancipation of slaves in New England, beginning around 1780,
was a gradual process, whether by post nati statute, as in Rhode
Island and Connecticut, or by effect, as in Massachusetts and New
Hampshire, where ambiguous judicial decisions and constitutional
interpretations discouraged slaveholding without clearly outlawing
it. . . . The emancipation process took place during the post-Revolutionary
period of social and economic uncertainty that interrogated the
stability of social identity and the meaning of citizenship for
whites as well as people of color [blacks]. . . .

Even more problematic was the promise implicit in antislavery rhetoric
that abolition, by ending “the problem”—the sin
of slavery and the troublesome presence of slaves—would result
in the eventual absence of people of color themselves. In other
words, whites anticipated that free people of color would, by some
undefined moment (always imminent), have disappeared.

New England whites employed an array of strategies to effect the
removal promised by antislavery rhetoric and to efface [erase] people
of color and their history in New England. Some of these efforts
were symbolic: representing people of color as ridiculous or dangerous
“strangers” in anecdotes, cartoons, and broadsides;
emphasizing slavery and “race” as “southern problems”;
characterizing New England slavery as brief and mild, or even denying
its having existed; inventing games and instructional problems in
which the object was to make “the negroes” disappear;
digging up the corpses of people of color. Other efforts aimed to
eliminate the presence of living people of color: conducting official
roundups and “warnings-out”; rioting in and vandalizing
black neighborhoods. Finally, some efforts involved both symbolic
and physical elements, such as the American Colonization Society’s
campaign to demonize free people of color and raise funds to ship
them to Africa. . . .

[Ralph Waldo] Emerson’s perceptive if simplistic observation
about abolitionists of the 1850s applies as well to eighteenth-century
antislavery activists: “The abolitionist wishes to abolish
slavery, but because he wishes to abolish the black man.”
Many whites had imagined that gradual emancipation would ultimately
restore New England to an idealized original state as an orderly,
homogeneous white society. . . .

The hardening ideology of “race”—innate, permanent
difference, located within the body as part of each person’s
essential nature—effectively contained and managed people
of color, as had the old institution of slavery. . . .

As sectional controversy intensified, the mystique of a historically
free, white New England provided a unique moral dimension to the
Unionist position there, linking nineteenth-century Unionist redeemers
with seventeenth-century Puritan ones. Thus, when Lewis Simpson
invokes Emerson as the quintessence of the New England mind of the
early nineteenth century, heir to Fisher Aimes in having discovered
by 1837 the “absolute cultural contrast between the South
and New England,” he locates the sources of this contrast
in assumptions about a “whites-only republic of man”
implicit in Emerson’s rather abstract opposition to slavery.
Simpson suggests that the governing mythology of this vision may
be found in Emerson’s musings that “the dark man, the
black man declines. . . . It will happen by and by, that the black
man will only be destined for museums like the Dodo.” But
the “superior good order” of the New England nation-state
had already come to be predicated upon the present and historical
absence of slaves/people of color there, in contradistinction to
the suffocating and historical presence of slaves in the South.
Emerson’s plan for a whites-only republic assumed the existence
of a whites-only New England already in place. This assumption was
not confined to Emerson, or to intellectuals, but was a fundamental
element of New England ideology that fueled and was fueled by a
powerful sectional nationalism. . . .

But the issue of the extension of slavery racialized the question
of the nature of the model society, and “what New England
is now” comprised not only judgments about the superiority
of small-town commerce and free labor over large-scale, slave-dependent
agriculture in the present but also assumptions about the development
of New England in the past as a region that was historically “white”
as well as “free.” In this context, efforts to remove
free people of color from New England and to efface their history
of enslavement there became critically important political maneuvers.
A virtual amnesia about local slavery and a kind of perpetual, indignant
surprise at the continuing presence of people of color became common
ingredients in the epic of preeminent New England as it was shaped
in the years after 1815. . . .

The moral authority asserted by the idea of a free, white New England
also served to rationalize the ambitions of many New Englanders
and, ultimately, northerners—both intellectuals and entrepreneurs—to
dominate the South commercially and culturally. . . . As Emerson
said in support of the confiscation of southerners’ property
at the end of the war, “You at once open the whole South to
the enterprise and genius of new men of all nations, and extend
New England from Canada to the Gulf to the Pacific.”

When radical abolitionists—advocating immediate, uncompensated
emancipation—began to gain adherents in the mid-1830s, they
vilified the colonizationist argument, but their own position rested
on quite similar assumptions about the superiority of Yankee blood
and culture. The observation of Theodore Parker, leading Boston
preacher and committed abolitionist, that “the Anglo-Saxon
people . . . is the best specimen of mankind which has ever attained
great power in the world”—although made later, in 1857—is
quite typical of the thinking prevalent among New England abolitionists.

The few abolitionists who acknowledged New England’s indigenous
history of slaveholding also minimized its extent and effect. .
. .

The growing enmity on the part of whites was clearly reflected
in their public language; the use of the word “nigger”
in particular seemed to operate as a kind of coagulate of the resentments
that had been growing in white communities in tandem with the size
and visibility of the population of free people of color. People
of color themselves understood clearly how the term served to enact
the embodiment of innate, permanent inferiority. Hosea Easton described
the process in his 1837 Treatise on the Intellectual Character,
and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the United

“Negro or nigger, is . . . employed to impose contempt upon
them as an inferior race, and also to express their deformity of
person. Nigger lips, nigger shins, nigger heels, are phrases universally
common among the juvenile class of society, and full well understood
by them. . . . Children in infancy receive oral instruction from
the nurse. The first lessons given are, . . . go to sleep, if you
don’t the old nigger will carry you off; don’t you cry—Hark;
the old nigger’s coming—how ugly you are, you are worse
than a little nigger. . . . to inspire their half-grown misses and
masters to improvement, they are told that if they do this or that,
. . . they will be poor or ignorant as a nigger, or that they will
be black as a nigger; or have no more credit than a nigger.”

In an explicit reference to the scurrilous, lampooning broadsides
then circulating widely in the streets of Boston, Easton noted,
“This kind of instruction is not altogether oral. Cuts and
placards descriptive of the negro’s deformity, are everywhere
displayed to the observation of the young, with corresponding broken
lingo, the very character of which is marked with design. Many of
the popular book stores, in commercial towns and cities, have their
show-windows lined with them. The barrooms of the most popular public
houses in the country, sometimes have their ceiling literally covered
with them”. . . .

A New England identity remained somewhat appealing because for
over half a century the idea of New England as a refuge of freedom
had retained a stubborn hold on the imagination of people of color,
despite bitter experience to the contrary. Even though, as gradual
emancipation followed slavery into an ever receding past, “racial”
thinking and practices in New England became increasingly oppressive,
New England was free in the technical sense that the legal machinery
of slavery had generally ceased to function there. . . .

But the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 stripped away even the legal
convention of “freedom” and overshadowed the few formal
advances, laying bare the reality of northern “racial”
thinking and practices. Martin Delany spoke for a growing number
of distinctly disenchanted northern people of color in 1852 when
he stated baldly that the “free” states were nothing
of the kind. . . .

[Frederick] Douglass, too, had abandoned all suggestions of northern
“racial” progress by 1853, and asked scathingly, “What
stone has been left unturned to degrade us? What hand has refused
to inflame the popular prejudice against us? . . . What wit has
not laughed at us in our wretchedness? . . . Few, few, very few”.
. . .

What Harriet Wilson published in 1859 was a remarkably clear-eyed
assessment of the racialized structure of New England life which
had developed in the more than half a century following the first
steps toward emancipation of New England slaves. Her blunt portrayal
of the mechanics of “racial” essentialism and its reproduction
in New England households dismantled the mythology of the New England
“free” states and indicted the model of “fire-side
culture” that was the engine of its reproduction. . . .

The engagement of New England in the Civil War can be read, as
Lewis Simpson suggests, as a nationalist and culturally imperialist
enterprise fueled at least in substantial part by the “racial”
essentialism on the one hand and the mythology of “freedom”
on the other which Wilson so shrewdly dissected.

Ultimately, of course, the Civil War ended American slavery finally
and completely, but northern people of color were not thereby released
from racial thinking and practices whose origins were lost in a
largely suppressed history of northern slavery and gradual emancipation.
. . .

Long after the war ended, the presence of people of color in New
England continued to be regarded by many whites as unaccountable,
a puzzling and irritating refusal of “the Negro” to
follow the dodo into extinction as Emerson—echoing the implicit
promises of antislavery activists in the Revolutionary period—had
so confidently predicted. (Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation
and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860, Cornell Paperbacks
Edition, Cornell University Press, 2000, pp. 1, 2, 164, 217-218,
220-221, 244-245, 264-265, 284-285, original emphasis)

William Klingaman:

In the first half of the nineteenth century, state legislatures
in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut took away
Negroes’ right to vote; and voters in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
Maine, Iowa, and Wisconsin approved new constitutions that limited
suffrage to whites. In Ohio, Negro males were permitted to vote
only if they had "a greater visible admixture of white than
colored blood”. . . .

City officials [in Washington. D.C.] restricted Negro immigrants
to the malaria-ridden lowlands known as “Murder Bay”
by the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, or to Negro Hill on North Tenth
Street, a safe distance from the respectable parts of town. . .

In early March [1862], Congress took up a bill to abolish slavery
in the District of Columbia. Introduced by Senator Wilson, the measure
provided payment to loyal owners of $300 per slave, provided they
freed their property within ninety days. . . . At Lincoln’s
request, the Senate added a rider offering steamship tickets to
any freed slaves who wished to emigrate to Haiti or Liberia. . .

Residents of Washington fought the measure with petitions and letters.
Local newspapers published editorials denouncing the bill. . . .

Washington’s mayor and board of aldermen pleaded with Congress
not to pass the bill. They feared it would make the capital, located
between the slaveholding states of Maryland and Virginia, “an
asylum for free negroes, a population undesirable in every American
community, and which it has been deemed necessary to exclude altogether
from some even of the non-slaveholding states”. . . . White
Washingtonians aimed to keep them subservient, especially after
Congress forced the repeal of the city’s black codes. In the
summer of 1862, a congressional committee discovered that in the
absence of slavery in the nation’s capital, white prejudice
against Negroes grew stronger. Whites were quick to file complaints
against Negroes, especially for theft, and gangs of white thugs
attacked Negroes with increasing frequency. . . .

Passage of the Confiscation Act did not resolve the debate over
emancipation in Congress. The bill itself freed no slaves. . . .
At the same time, however, prejudice against Negroes was rising
among white northerners. Some whites blamed Negroes for causing
the war. . . . Other whites, particularly Irish immigrants living
in Northern cities, feared that freed slaves might migrate north
and compete with them as a source of cheap labor.

“There is but one thing, sir, that we want here,” announced
an Ohioan to a visiting journalist, “and that is to get rid
of the niggers.” A lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery
Society reported that denunciations of Negroes “were never
more common in my hearing. Many Republicans unite with Democrats
in cursing the ‘niggers,’ and in declaring that the
slaves, if possibly emancipated by the war, must be removed from
the country”. . . .

When several state governments found it necessary to institute
conscription in the summer of 1862, anti-Negro riots broke out among
. . . communities in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio, where protestors
insisted that “we won’t fight to free the nigger.”
Before the summer ended, more violent demonstrations against Negroes
erupted in Cincinnati and New York. . . .

Midwestern opponents of the proclamation [the Emancipation Proclamation]
raised the specter of several million free Negroes fleeing Alabama,
Mississippi, and Louisiana for Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Anti-Negro
feeling in the region was on the rise; only a few months earlier,
the Ohio state legislature had defeated by only two votes a measure
to remove all Negroes already residing in the state. . . . Mass
meetings in the Midwest protesting emancipation and the war degenerated
into violence. Race riots erupted in Detroit when whites attacked
Negroes, killing several and burning dozens of homes. . . .

In the summer of 1863, New York City was primed for an explosion.
. . . On the stifling hot, muggy morning of July 13, a band of Irish
toughs attacked the Ninth District draft office, smashing furniture
and setting the building ablaze. . . . The movement quickly spread
throughout the city’s working-class sections in the Upper
East Side. . . . Rioters cut down telegraph poles to sever police
communications, tore up railroad tracks, attacked the police and
provost marshal’s guard on the streets. . . . They attacked
the homes of abolitionists and assaulted every Negro in sight, invading
Negroes’ houses and pulling them off steamboats and streetcars
to savagely beat them or hang them from lampposts. An English visitor
witnessed whites chasing a Negro down an avenue, shouting “Kill
the black son of a bitch!” and “Kill all niggers!”
Employers were warned “not to put any niggers to work.”

Late in the afternoon, a mob set fire to the Colored Orphan Asylum
at Fifth Avenue and Forty-Third Street. Fortunately, most of the
children had escaped moments earlier. When firemen attempted to
put out the blaze, the rioters destroyed the hydrants. . . .

Racial prejudice grew stronger in the riot’s aftermath. Fearful
of renewed trouble, employers refused to hire Negroes; New Yorkers
who befriended Negroes found themselves threatened by white laborers.
Eventually one-third of the city’s black population left to
seek better opportunities elsewhere. (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln
and the Road to Emancipation, p. 54, 91, 117-118, 132, 164-165,
246-247, 262-264)

When it came to the issue of using blacks as soldiers in the Union
army, most Northern whites either opposed the measure or favored
it primarily because they wanted to save the lives of as many white
soldiers as possible. Klingaman:

“Certainly we hope we may never have to confess to the world
that the United States government has to seek an ally in the negro
to regain its authority,” declared an editorial in the Milwaukee
Sentinel. “We don’t want to fight alongside with the
nigger,” agreed a recruit from New York. “We think we
are a too superior race for that”. . . .

Vice President Hamlin probably reflected northerners’ opinion
. . . when he told a rally in Bangor [Maine] in July that “we
want to save, as much as possible, our men, even if it is done by
men a little blacker than myself.” Governor Samuel Kirkwood
of Iowa put the matter more baldly when he voiced a desire to see
“some dead niggers as well as dead white men.” (Klingaman,
Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, pp. 160-161)

Several Northern states rejected the Fifteenth Amendment, which
was designed to guarantee voting rights for African Americans and
other minorities. The amendment was submitted to the states for
ratification in February 1869. The Northern states of Delaware,
Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and Oregon rejected it. So did California
and Kentucky, both of which had sided with the Union during the
war. New York ratified the amendment but then quickly renounced
its ratification. All but two of these states waited decades before
finally approving the amendment. (Ohio and New Jersey initially
rejected the amendment but then ratified it a year or two later,
in 1870 and 1871 respectively.)

Was the War Fought Over Slavery?

The war was fought over Southern independence, not over slavery.
Lincoln said repeatedly the war was not being fought over slavery.
In August 1862, over a year after the war started, Lincoln wrote
an open letter to a prominent Republican abolitionist, Horace Greeley,
in which he said he did not agree with those who would only “save”
the Union if they could destroy slavery at the same time. Lincoln
added that if he could “save” the Union without freeing
a single slave, he would do so. Said Lincoln,

If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could
at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them.

My paramount objective is to save the Union and not either to save
or destroy slavery.

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do
it. If I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it.
And if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone,
I would also do that. (Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862,
published in the New York Tribune)

In July 1861, after the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) had
been fought, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution, by an overwhelming
majority, that declared the war was not being fought to disturb
slavery, nor to subjugate the South, but only to “maintain
the Union” (i.e., to force the Southern states back into the
Union). A few months later, in September, a group of Radicals visited
Lincoln to urge him to make compulsory emancipation a war objective.
Lincoln declined, telling the Radicals, “We didn’t go
into the war to put down slavery, but to put the flag back”
(Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 155; Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and
the Road to Emancipation, pp. 75-76). Later on, about halfway through
the war, the Radicals and other Republicans succeeded in making
the uncompensated abolition of Southern slavery a secondary goal
of the war. However, the primary purpose of the federal invasion
was always to destroy Southern independence.

The war itself really had nothing directly to do with slavery.
It’s true that issues involving slavery were the most important
factors behind the first wave of secession, but secession and the
war were two separate events, and four of the Southern states did
not secede over slavery. As noted earlier, secession was a peaceful,
democratic process. The seceded states posed no threat to the federal
government, and they had no intention of trying to overthrow the
government. The Confederate states wanted to live in peace with
the North and offered to pay their share of the national debt and
to pay compensation for all federal forts in the South. If Lincoln
had not decided to use force to compel the South to rejoin the Union,
there would have been no war. If Republican leaders and their financial
backers had welcomed Confederate efforts to establish peaceful relations,
there would have been no war.

Some will make the argument that had it not been for slavery there
would have been no war and that therefore slavery caused the war
or that the war was fought over slavery. This is not a logical argument.
It’s probably true that there would have been no war if there
had been no slavery, although this is not certain. After all, South
Carolina and the federal government nearly went to war over the
federal tariff in 1832-1833. However, even if there would have been
no war if slavery had not existed, this does not mean the war was
fought over slavery or that slavery caused the war. Slavery was
one of several factors that led to the war, but the cause of the
conflict was Lincoln’s refusal to allow the South to leave
in peace. The role that slavery played as a factor that led to the
war was similar to the role that oil played as a factor that led
to the first Gulf War in 1991. If there had been no Kuwaiti oil
fields, Iraq would not have invaded Kuwait and the first Gulf War
would not have been fought. But, no credible analyst would suggest
that therefore that war was “fought over oil” or that
oil “caused” the war. The first Gulf War was fought
because Iraq invaded Kuwait. America and her allies fought the war
in order to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. The Kuwaitis
who fought in the war were fighting first and foremost to repel
an invader and to preserve their independence, not to protect their
oil fields.

If the Southern states had not seceded, there would have been no
war and slavery would have continued. If the Southern states had
surrendered when Lincoln issued his call-up for an invasion force,
there would have been no war and slavery would have continued. If
Jefferson Davis’s first announcement as Confederate president
had been that the Confederacy was going to abolish slavery, Lincoln
and the Radicals still would have invaded the South. If the Confederacy
had informed Lincoln at any point during the war that it was going
to start an emancipation program, Lincoln would not have suddenly
called off the federal invasion. The issue was Southern independence,
not slavery.

The reaction of the Northern abolitionists to the proposal of fellow
abolitionist Moncure Conway is further proof the war was not fought
over slavery. At least a few of the abolitionists were Republicans,
and nearly all of them strongly supported the Radicals. Conway,
on the other hand, was a pacifist. Yet, at first Conway reluctantly
supported the invasion of the South. “But,” notes Jeffrey
Hummel, “the increasing bloodshed sickened him.” So,
when Conway was in England in 1863, he proposed to a Confederate
envoy that if the South freed the slaves the abolitionists would
oppose the war. Conway also said he would support the continuation
of the Confederacy as long as the Confederacy abolished slavery.
Strangely enough, leading abolitionists had selected Conway to go
to England in order to convince the British that the war was being
fought to free the slaves. However, when Conway’s proposal
for Southern independence coupled with abolition was published,
most abolitionists reacted with outrage and withdrew their support
from him. Obviously, their main goal was to crush the South, even
if the South freed its slaves. Notes Hummel,

The cries of protest on this side of the Atlantic that greeted
the proposal’s publication made clear that most abolitionists
now wanted to subdue and punish the South, slavery or no. (Emancipating
Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, p. 206)

As one reads the speeches and letters of Confederate leaders during
the war, it becomes apparent that they certainly didn’t believe
their main reason for fighting was to preserve slavery. For example,
beginning in late 1862, James Phelan, Joseph Bradford, and Reuben
Davis wrote to Jefferson Davis to express concern that some opponents
were claiming the war "was for the defense of the institution
of slavery" (Cooper, Jefferson Davis, American, pp. 479-480,
765). They called those who were making this claim "demagogues."
Cooper notes that when two Northerners visited Jefferson Davis during
the war, Davis insisted "the Confederates were not battling
for slavery" and that "slavery had never been the key
issue" (Jefferson Davis, American, p. 524). McPherson notes
that Jefferson Davis repeatedly said the South was fighting for
its independence and that the Southern states merely wanted to be
left alone:

Jefferson Davis said repeatedly that the South was fighting for
the same “sacred right of self-government” that the
revolutionary fathers had fought for. In his first message to Congress
[the Confederate Congress] after the fall of Sumter, Davis proclaimed
that the Confederacy would “seek no conquest, no aggrandizement,
no concession of any kind from the States with which were lately
confederated; all we ask is to be let alone.” (The Battle
Cry of Freedom, p. 310)

To most Southerners, independence was more important than the continuation
of slavery. This is not surprising, since less than 10 percent of
Southern citizens actually held title to slaves, and since 69-75
percent of Southern families did not own slaves (John Niven, The
Coming of the Civil War: 1837-1861, Arlington Heights, Illinois:
Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1990, p. 34; Divine et al, editors, America
Past and Present, p. 389; see also the 1860 Census). Early in the
war, James Alcorn, a powerful planter-politician from Mississippi,
began to talk openly about emancipation. Duncan Kenner, one of the
most powerful slaveholders in the South and a chairman in the Confederate
Congress, urged that slavery be abolished. Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s
most famous general, believed slavery was evil and favored gradual
emancipation. The Confederate secretary of state, Judah Benjamin,
and Governor William Smith of Virginia, also supported ending slavery.
By late 1864, Jefferson Davis himself was prepared to abolish slavery
in order to gain European diplomatic recognition and thus save the
Confederacy, which shows that independence was more important to
him than preserving slavery. Hummel, though critical of the South
on many points, observes the following:

Jefferson Davis summarily rejected Lincoln’s demands [for
the dissolution of the Confederacy], yet he might have given in
on southern emancipation in return for Southern independence. His
countrymen were already debating the revolutionary expedient of
arming slaves to fight for the Confederacy, even though they knew
that this meant an end to their peculiar institution [slavery].
As early as August 1863, an editorial in the Jackson Mississippian
declared that slavery should not be “a barrier to our independence.
If it is found in the way—if it proves an insurmountable object
of the achievement of our liberty and separate nationality, away
with it! Let it perish!” This was a drastic step, but “we
must make up our minds to one solemn duty, the first duty of the
patriot, and that is to save ourselves from the rapacious North,
whatever the cost.”

General Lee added his prestige to the proposal: “We must
decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and
the slaves used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of
the effects which may be produced upon our social institutions,”
he warned. “My own opinion is that we should employ them without
delay. . . . The best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity
of this auxiliary force would be to accompany the measure with a
well-digested plan of gradual and general emancipation.” In
March of 1865, the Confederate Congress narrowly authorized the
recruitment of 300,000 slaves, while the Davis Administration promised
full emancipation to the British and French governments in exchange
for diplomatic recognition. (Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free
Men, pp. 280-281)

A Confederate soldier who was captured early in the war expressed
the South’s reason for fighting in simple yet eloquent terms.
He wore a ragged homemade uniform, and like most other Southerners
he didn’t own any slaves. When his Union captors asked him
why he was fighting for the Confederacy, he replied, “I’m
fighting because you’re down here” (McPherson, The Battle
Cry of Freedom, p. 311, emphasis added).

What Happened at Andersonville Prison?

The question that really should be asked is, Why did thousands
of Confederate prisoners die of starvation, disease, and exposure
in Northern prison camps when the Union army could have easily given
them adequate food, housing, and medical care?

Yes, thousands of Union prisoners died of starvation, disease,
and exposure at the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, but
that was because the Confederacy simply didn’t have enough
food, medicine, and facilities to care for them. During this same
period, tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers were going hungry
on a regular basis and lacked adequate medical supplies–because
of the Union naval blockade and because of the inhumane destruction
that Union armies were inflicting on the South. Confederate authorities
tried to obtain medical supplies for the Union prisoners at Andersonville,
but Lincoln refused to sell them, even though the Confederates offered
to allow Union doctors to accompany the supplies to ensure they
were used for Union prisoners. After the war, even some Union officers
placed the blame for Andersonville squarely on Lincoln and on Ulysses
S. Grant, not on the Confederacy.

One of the most balanced and objective treatments of the issue
of Andersonville can be found in J. G. Randall and David Donald’s
highly acclaimed book The Civil War and Reconstruction. No one would
argue that Randall and Donald were pro-Confederate historians—in
fact, they were decidedly pro-Union in their outlook. However, on
most issues they were fair and objective, and one of those issues
was the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville. Among other things,
Randall and Donald said,

The Andersonville prison, until the soldiers built huts for themselves,
was but a stockaded enclosure of sixteen and a half acres in southwestern
Georgia. Mosquito-infested tents; myriads of maggots; pollution
and filth due to lack of sanitation; soldiers dying by thousands;
men desperately attempting to tunnel their way to freedom; prison
mates turning on their fellows whom they suspected of treachery
or theft; unbaked rations; inadequate hospital facilities; escaping
men hunted down by bloodhounds—such are the details that come
down to us from incontrovertible sources. The causes of such conditions
are to be found in the sheer inability of officers in charge to
cope with the immense number of prisoners pouring in on them before
preparations could be made to receive them, the insurmountable difficulties
in obtaining supplies and equipment, and the poverty of the Confederacy
in material resources. Union prisoners at Andersonville were in
no worse case than many of the soldiers of Lee’s army; and
it should be remembered that “the prisoners received the same
rations as the soldiers who were guarding them” [quoting pro-Northern
historian James F. Rhodes]. . . .

The sickening story of Andersonville, however, is not to be set
down, in the manner of lurid prison literature, as a chapter in
Confederate cruelty; it is the tragedy of an impossible situation
forced by the barbarity of war. . . . As Dr. Hesseltine points out,
the harrowing personal memoirs of prisoners, which generally follow
a set pattern, are to be taken cum grano salis; and the careful
student will tend to agree with him in rejecting the legend of willful
Southern atrocities. (The Civil War and Reconstruction, pp. 336-337)

Much could be said about the thousands of Confederate prisoners
who died in Union prison camps and about the horrible conditions
in many of those camps. The Union had no excuse for not adequately
caring for its Confederate prisoners. Unlike the Confederacy, which

was literally starving and was being invaded and blockaded, the
Union had more than enough food, medicine, and equipment. There
was no reason that a single Confederate prisoner should have died
of starvation or exposure. Even Kenneth Davis, who is very critical
of the Confederacy on nearly all issues, admits that thousands of
Confederate prisoners were deliberately mistreated by the Union

The worst Union prison was in Elmira, in upstate New York, where
2,963 Confederate soldiers died, nearly a quarter of the 12,123
men held there. This death rate was only slightly less than Andersonville’s
and more than double the average death rate in the other Union prison
camps. Built in May 1864, after prisoner exchanges were halted,
the camp was designed to hold 5,000 men. The deaths at Elmira were
caused by diseases brought on by starvation and terrible living
conditions. During a bitterly cold winter, clothes sent by families
for the prisoners were deliberately withheld, and hundreds of men,
forced to live in tents with no blankets, froze to death. In May
1864 War Secretary [Edwin] Stanton ordered prisoner rations reduced
to the same amount issued to Confederate soldiers. This supposedly
ensured that Confederate prisoners were receiving the equivalent
of the rations Union prisoners were getting. In other words, in
the midst of plenty in the Union, malnourished Confederate prisoners
suffered epidemics of scurvy, diarrhea, pneumonia, and smallpox.
(Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, p. 354)

Stanton knew full well that most Confederate soldiers in the field
were receiving very sparse rations and that in some cases were going
without food for days at a time. He had to know it was grossly unfair
and inhumane to reduce Confederate prisoner rations to the same
amount that Confederate soldiers were receiving. The deliberately
cruel manner in which Stanton and the Union army treated thousands
of Confederate prisoners is one of the most undertold stories of
the Civil War.

The tragedy at Andersonville never would have happened if the Union
had not halted prisoner exchanges in 1863. For all intents and purposes,
the exchanges stopped in 1863—they were formally halted in
the spring of 1864 by Ulysses S. Grant. Confederate authorities
continued to make offers for prisoner exchanges. Lincoln and Grant
claimed they refused these offers because at the time the Confederates
would not include black Union prisoners in the exchanges. I suspect
the real reason for Lincoln and Grant’s refusal was that they
wanted to deprive the Confederate army of manpower, even though
they knew the Confederacy was in no position to properly care for
the thousands of Union prisoners in its prison camps. In fact, in
August 1864 Grant said exchanging prisoners would help the Confederacy
more than the Union, adding, "We have to fight until the military
power of the South is exhausted. . . .” In other words, Grant
was willing to allow Union prisoners to continue to suffer and die
in order to defeat the Confederacy. McPherson denies this was the
real reason behind the suspension of exchanges; he notes that Grant
made these comments "more than a year after the exchange cartel
had broken down over the Negro prisoner question" (The Battle
Cry of Freedom, p. 800). However, one can also argue that Grant
was expressing his real motive for opposing the resumption of exchanges,
regardless of when he made the statement.

I find it somewhat hard to believe that men like Lincoln and Grant
refused to resume prisoner exchanges because of the Confederate
policy on black Union prisoners. Grant bombed the civilian population
of Vicksburg, Mississippi, for weeks, forcing them to live underground
in man-made caves and to eat dogs, rats, and mules. He also sanctioned
vicious, genocidal attacks on the American Indians after the war.
Lincoln doggedly opposed using blacks as soldiers until Union casualties
began to mount and the Radicals forced his hand. When Lincoln was
finally forced to use blacks as soldiers after signing the Emancipation
Proclamation, he refused to give them the same pay as white soldiers,
until Congress compelled him to do so. Lincoln’s concern for
black troops was nowhere to be seen when he declined to halt the
shameful execution of a black soldier named William Walker, who
had been convicted of “mutiny” for protesting the unequal-pay
policy. Bennett notes that although Lincoln repeatedly pardoned
white soldiers who had been sentenced to death, he refused to pardon

Still more unmistakable evidence of Lincoln’s orientation
can be found in his failure to provide equal pay and equal protection
for Black soldiers. . . . Before Congress rectified Lincoln’s
error, a brave Black sergeant named William Walker, who participated
in a protest against Lincoln’s policy, was arrested and charged
with mutiny. At his trial, he pleaded in extenuation that “nearly
the whole of his regiment acted in like manner as himself,”
that “when the Regiment stacked arms and refused further duty.
. . . I did not exercise any command over them” and that “I
carried my arms and equipment back with me to my company street.”

Ignoring this testimony and pleas from major leaders, including
some Union officers, a military court sentenced Sergeant Walker
to death. Although Lincoln repeatedly overruled death sentences
of White soldiers, he looked the other way when, on February 29,
1864, at 9 o’clock in the morning, Sergeant William Walker
. . . was “shot to death with musketry” in the presence
of his brigade. . . . A biting footnote was added by Massachusetts
Governor Andrew, who said that “the Lincoln administration
which found no law to pay Walker except as a nondescript or contraband,
nevertheless found law enough to shoot him as a soldier.”
(Forced Into Glory, p. 543)

Why did the Confederacy initially decline to include black Union
prisoners in prisoner exchanges? Confederate leaders considered
the Union army’s use of former Southern slaves as a federally
sanctioned slave revolt. From their viewpoint, since those slaves
had either been stolen or had run away, they had no right to be
soldiers in the federal forces that were invading the South. I can
certainly sympathize with those runaway slaves who joined the Union
army in the hope of securing freedom and equality for their race.
But I can also understand why the Confederates felt the way they
did on the matter. The American colonists resented the British army’s
use of their runaway slaves as soldiers. The Union’s employment
of Southern slaves as soldiers was in effect a federally backed
slave insurrection. Slavery was still legal in the four Union slave
states, as it was in the South. Yet, Union armies didn’t invade
and devastate the Northern slave states, only the Southern states.

It’s true that when the Confederacy offered to include black
prisoners in the exchanges, Lincoln and Grant accepted the offer.
But this didn’t occur until January 1865, when it was virtually
certain the Union was going to win the war and win it soon. It would
have been interesting to see what Lincoln and Grant’s response
would have been if the Confederacy had made this offer several months

After the war, Lincoln’s assistant secretary of war, Charles
Dana, blamed Grant for the breakdown in prisoner exchanges, saying
"the evidence proves that it was not the Confederates who insisted
on keeping our prisoners in distress, want and disease, but the
commander of our armies" (in Lynn Tyler, A Confederate Catechism,
Dahlonega, Georgia: Crown Rights Book Company, 2000, reprint, p.
36, quoting from "Treatment of Prisoners During the War Between
the States," Southern Historical Papers, Vol. 1, pp. 112-327).
Dana told the New York Sun that “the fact is unquestionable
that while the Confederates desired to exchange prisoners, to send
our men home, and to get back their own men, General Grant steadily
and strenuously resisted such an exchange” (in Mildred Rutherford,
Truths of History, Dahlonega, Georgia: Crown Rights Book Company,
reprint of original 1920 edition, p. 21).

Did the South Control the Federal Government Until 1860?

The claim is frequently made that the South controlled the federal
government until the 1860 election, and that therefore the South
showed a lack of tolerance and fairness when it seceded in response
to Lincoln’s victory. However, anyone who is familiar with
American history knows that the South did not control the federal
government until 1860. Many Northern politicians and writers trumpeted
this myth for political and propaganda purposes. A major component
of this myth was that the alleged “Slave Power” in the
South was behind the South’s supposed domination of the federal
government. Some Northern leaders even claimed there was a “Slave
Power conspiracy” to impose slavery on the entire country.
When the war ended, Radical Republicans issued dire warnings about
the need to crush this supposed “Slave Power” in order
to justify their subjugation and looting of the defeated South.

For one thing, wealthy Southern plantation owners, i.e., the men
who allegedly comprised the supposed “Slave Power,”
did not dictate Southern politics. Moreover, they were by no means
uniform in their political beliefs. In fact, many affluent planters
were Whigs (Frank Owsley, Plain Folk of the Old South, LSU Press
Edition, LSU Press, 1982, pp. 141-142; Arthur Schlesinger, The Age
of Jackson, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1945, p. 453; McPherson,
The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 242). And, as mentioned earlier, some
of the wealthiest slaveholders opposed secession. In Georgia, for
example, many counties with heavy concentrations of Whig slaveholders
voted against secession (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p.
242). Randall and Donald pointed out that the plantation aristocracy
did not control the South’s political destinies:

Nor is it to be inferred that a plantation “aristocracy”
somehow controlled the political destinies of the region, for the
current of democracy had eroded the powers of the gentry until “whatever
influence the planters exercised over the political action of the
common people was of a personal and local nature” [quoting
Owsley, Plain Folk of the Old South, p. 139]. (The Civil War and
Reconstruction, pp. 40-41)

Even in the very conservative Deep South state of Mississippi,
plantation aristocrats did not dictate political affairs. In discussing
Mississippi politics and Jefferson Davis’s political campaigns
in that state, Cooper notes the following:

White manhood suffrage had existed since 1832, and the sovereign
voters required wooing and intermingling from their prospective
officeholders. . . .

This was emphatically not a political world in which rich planters
controlled candidates and elections while sipping sherry and juleps
in elegant drawing rooms. Energetic campaigning antedated Davis’s
entry into the arena and did not diminish during his time as a participant.
From 1844 until 1860, Davis participated fully and willingly in
the demanding ordeal set up by Mississippi voters for those who
wanted their allegiance. (Jefferson Davis, American, p. 106)

Historian Francis Butler Simkins called attention to the democratic
reforms that the South began to adopt in the early 1800s:

Facts prove that the states of the Old South, through a series
of progressive reforms, conformed to the contemporary definition
of democracy as “an equal division of political rights, not
of property.” They cast aside the Colonial heritage of suffrage
restrictions, property qualifications for officeholding, and unequal
apportionment of legislative representation. Kentucky, Maryland,
and South Carolina established universal white manhood suffrage
by 1810. Popular dissatisfaction with aristocratic privilege caused
six Southern states in the 1830s to hold constitutional conventions
dedicated to democratic reform. Consequently, property qualifications
for voting were abolished in all Southern states except Virginia,
North Carolina, and Louisiana, and for officeholding in all except
South Carolina and Louisiana. Progress was also made in the reapportionment
of legislative representation to give a more accurate proportion
of the seats in the interior counties. In the 1850s constitutional
reforms in seven states abolished almost all the remaining aristocratic
privileges except in South Carolina. Until after the Civil War that
state continued to have governors and Presidential electors chosen
by the legislature, and to apportion legislative representation
through a combination of property and white population.

These restrictions, however, were not more comprehensive than those
prevailing in Massachusetts until 1853 and in Rhode Island until
1888. (A History of the South, pp. 108-109)

If the South truly “controlled” the federal government
until 1860, one can only wonder why the federal tariff was never
as low as the South wanted it to be, why Congress gave the Northern
states a legal monopoly in the lucrative shipbuilding business and
why this monopoly was never repealed, why it took ten years for
Texas to be admitted as a state, why Cuba was never annexed, how
the Missouri Compromise became law in 1820, how the Tariff of Abominations
passed Congress in 1828, how the Force Bill passed Congress in 1833,
how the tariff act of 1842 passed Congress, how the John Calhoun
resolutions of 1847-1848 were all defeated, how the Wilmot Proviso
passed the House of Representatives twice, how the Compromise of
1850 was enacted, why Kansas wasn’t admitted as a slave state,
why the Missouri Compromise line wasn’t extended to the west
coast, and how the draconian Morrill Tariff passed the House in
1860. (Some critics claim that Southern congressmen supported the
1828 Tariff of Abominations, but in point of fact most Southern
congressmen voted against it [Taussig, The Tariff History of the
United States, pp. 61-62].)

It’s true that there were periods when the South had more
influence on federal policy than did the North, but there were also
periods when this was not the case. At no time did the South “control”
the federal government. Cooper notes that “after mid-1854
no chance remained for a congressional majority on any initiative
marked as a southern measure” (Jefferson Davis, American,
p. 284). The South was usually able to block or modify unwanted
bills in the Senate, but not always, and the South was frequently
unable to defeat unwanted bills in the House. As early as 1819 “the
North had built up a decisive majority in the House of Representatives”
(Divine et al, editors, America Past and Present, p. 281). Historian
John Niven notes that the South continued to lose ground in the
House from 1830 to 1840:

The House of Representatives, whose membership was based on the
census returns for each state, reflected this growing disparity
[between the populations of the North and the South]. Even counting
three-fifths of the slave population (as the federal Constitution
provided), free states increased their majority from twenty-three
seats in 1830 to twenty-nine seats in 1840. The disparity expressed
in total seats was 149 representatives from the free states to 88
from the slave states. (The Coming of the Civil War, p. 21)

As for the presidency, Presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams,
Martin Van Buren, William Harrison, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan
were all Northern politicians. And who were the Southern presidents?
They were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James
Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor.
So the South by no means enjoyed exclusive control of the White
House prior to the war. Furthermore, the “Southern”
presidents didn’t automatically take the South’s side
on all issues, just as the “Northern” presidents didn’t
automatically take the North’s side on all issues. For example,
President Taylor sided with Northern politicians on crucial aspects
of the Compromise of 1850 and also supported the Wilmot Proviso,
even though he himself was a slaveholder.

When the South did exercise considerable influence on federal policy,
it used that influence in efforts to reduce taxes, to limit the
growth of the federal government, to curb or eliminate harmful protectionist
trade policies, to impose fiscal responsibility on federal spending,
to abolish the corrupt United States Bank, to preserve our free
banking system, to prohibit the use of tax dollars for wasteful
corporate welfare schemes, to expand the land area of the United
States by acquiring new territory, to preserve the sovereignty of
the states, and to enforce a strict interpretation of the Constitution.
Under Southern leadership, Texas was finally admitted to the Union
and the gigantic land area of the Mexican Cession became American
territory. And if Southern leaders had been able to persuade the
federal government to acquire Cuba, that beautiful island would
have become an American state, there would have been no Cuban Missile
Crisis, and the Cuban people wouldn’t be suffering under Fidel
Castro’s oppressive Marxist regime (which has been in power
for over forty years now).

I’m not saying that Southern politicians did no wrong. For
example, the Southern-inspired 1836-1844 gag rule in the House of
Representatives, which prevented debate on petitions to abolish
slavery in the District of Columbia, was unfortunate, though many
Northern congressmen supported the rule as well. The largely Southern-backed
Lecompton Constitution for Kansas was admittedly unfair, and fortunately
the people of Kansas were eventually able to vote it down. But such
cases were the exception, not the rule. Most of the time Southern
politicians used their influence to pursue good, sound policies
that benefited all citizens.

All Americans should be grateful that most Northern politicians
did not get their way during crucial times in the decades leading
up to the Civil War. If the Northern Federalists, followed by the
Northern Whigs, had been in control of the government during certain
key periods before the war, America would be a much smaller country
today, and probably a poorer and weaker one. How would things have
been different if the Northern Whigs had had their way? Texas would
not have become a state. The Mexican War would not have been fought
(Northern abolitionists viewed the war as another act of the “Slave
Power,” and the Massachusetts legislature declared the war
was being fought with “the triple object of extending slavery,
of strengthening the slave power, and of obtaining the control of
the free states”). If the Mexican War had not been waged,
the massive land area of the Mexican Cession, which now includes
Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah, would have remained
part of Mexico. With regard to domestic policy, if the Northern
Whigs had had their way, the tariff would have been even higher
than it was, the federal government would have grown significantly,
federal spending would have increased markedly, corporate welfare
would have exploded, and our system of free banking would have been
destroyed much sooner (the Republicans destroyed it during the Civil

If the Federalist-dominated New England states had had their way,
the War of 1812 with Britain may have had a different outcome. The
New England states refused to help with the war effort and actually
aided the British:

New Englanders refused to cooperate with the war effort. . . .
New Englanders carried on a lucrative, though illegal, commerce

with the enemy. When the U.S. Treasury appealed for loans to finance
the war, wealthy northern merchants failed to respond. (Divine et
al, editors, America Past and Present, p. 254)

Historian Kenneth Stampp:

New England Federalists throughout the war regarded the . . . politicians
in Washington, not the British, as their mortal enemies. And, having
regained political control of all the New England states, they were
in a position to translate their angry polemics into defiant deeds.

Federalist governors contested federal calls on the state militias.
. . . Federalists discouraged voluntary enlistments. . . . Federalists
resisted tax measures and boycotted government loans. . . . Meanwhile,
New Englanders defiantly continued to trade with Canada and even
furnished supplies to the British fleet. (In Blum and Catton et
al, editors, The National Experience, pp. 185-186)

When the Northern Federalists gained control of the federal government
in 1796, they tried to use their newly found power to silence political
opponents. In 1798 they passed the infamous Sedition Act, which
made it illegal to “falsely” criticize a federal official:

The Federalists did not rely solely on the army to crush political
dissent. During the summer of 1798, the party’s majority in
Congress passed a group of bills known collectively as the Alien
and Sedition Acts. This legislation authorized the use of federal
courts and the powers of the presidency to silence [political opponents].
. . . The acts were born of fear and vindictiveness, and in their
efforts to punish the followers of Jefferson, the Federalists created
the nation’s first major crisis over civil liberties. . .

The Sedition Law struck at the heart of free political exchange.
It defined criticism of the U.S. government as criminal libel. (Divine
et al, editors, America Past and Present, pp. 223-224)

Historian Edmund Morgan wrote that the Sedition Act “was
one of the most repressive measures ever directed against political
activity in the United States” (in Blum and Catton et al,
editors, The National Experience, p. 162). Legal scholar John Remington
Graham observes that the Sedition Act “broadly criminalized
libel against public officers of the United States, and was vindictively
enforced by the party in power against the party out of power”
(A Constitutional History of Secession, Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican
Publishing Company, 2002, p. 110). Graham continues,

As if freedom of the press had not become part of constitutional
heritage in the United States, Congressman Matthew Lyon of Vermont
was convicted under the Sedition Act for writing a letter to the
editor of a newspaper under the loaded jury instructions of an outraged
Federal judge. Lyons was reelected to Congress as he sat in prison.
There were many such abuses. (A Constitutional History of Secession,
p. 110)

Founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and James Madison rightly viewed
the Sedition Act as a dangerous step toward a police state. In response
to this threat to free speech and liberty, Jefferson authored the
Kentucky Resolutions, while Madison authored the Virginia Resolution,
and their respective state legislatures approved them. The resolutions
declared that the states had the right, even the duty, to protect
their citizens against dangerous and unconstitutional federal abuses,
such as the Sedition Act, and that ultimately it was up to the states
to determine the legality of federal law if all other checks and
balances failed. All of the Northern states rejected these resolutions,
even as patriotic citizens were being unjustly jailed under the
Sedition Act. A strong majority of Americans, however, decided the
Federalists had gone too far and swept them out of power two years
later in the next election: The Federalists lost the presidency
and lost control of both chambers of Congress in the 1800 election.
Walter Brian Cisco discusses the Northern states’ reaction
to the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions:

In the summer of 1798 a Federalist Congress passed, and President
Adams signed, a series of acts designed to strengthen the government’s
hand and to silence domestic critics. . . . The most controversial
measure was the Sedition Act. . . . For a period of two years it
was declared unlawful for anyone to “write, print, utter,
or publish” anything “false, scandalous and malicious”
against those in federal office. It was further declared seditious
to bring Congress or the president “into contempt or disrepute”
or to “excite against them . . . the hatred of the good people
of the United States.” Less than seven years after the adoption
of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights a Federalist majority
had cast aside the free speech protections of the First Amendment.
. . .

Dominated by Federalist legislators, all of the Northern states
denounced the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions. States may not
determine the constitutionality of federal laws, replied New Hampshire—only
the federal judiciary has that prerogative. For a state to stand
in the way of federal authority might cause “civil discord,”
claimed Rhode Island, resulting in “many evil and fatal consequences.”
Vermont, having entered the Union as the fourteenth state after
years as an independent republic, ventured the opinion that, “The
people of the United States formed the federal constitution, and
not the states.” Madison expressed astonishment at such reasoning.
. . . Kentucky legislators answered their critics by passing another
resolution. In it they declared that to allow the federal government
to determine the extent of its own powers, through the federal judiciary
or elsewhere, would lead to “despotism.” Should federal
authorities trample on the Constitution, the “rightful remedy”
was “nullification” of the offending act by state intervention.
. . .

In a 1799 letter to Madison, Jefferson went so far as to speak
of the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions as a defense of the ultimate
power “to sever ourselves from . . . the Union . . . rather
than give up the rights of self-government.” (Taking A Stand,
pp. 16, 18)

Historian Frank Owsley pointed out that Jefferson and other early
American leaders invoked the principle of states rights in response
to the troubling abuses that occurred as a result of the Sedition

Under the Sedition Act men had been prosecuted for criticizing
the President or members of Congress or judges and had been sent
to prison in violation of the Constitutional guarantee of freedom
of speech. Opinion had been suppressed, meetings broken up, arbitrary
arrests made, men held without trial, in fact, the whole body of
personal liberties had been brushed aside by the Federalist or centralizing
party. . . . Jefferson and Madison, supported by the state-rights
apostle of Virginia, John Taylor of Caroline, and . . . John Randolph,
proclaimed that the federal government had thus shown itself to
be an unsafe protector of liberty. So Jefferson announced in his
inaugural . . . that the states were the safest guardians of human
liberty and called on all to support “the state governments
in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our
domestic concerns and the surest bulwark against anti-republican
tendencies.” The founder of the party of the agrarian South
and West upheld state rights as the safest guardian of the liberties
and the domestic interests of the people. (“The Irrepressible
Conflict,” in Edwin Rozwenc, editor, The Causes of the American
Civil War, Second Edition, Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath
and Company, 1972, p. 119)

When Northern Federalists sought to block the admission of Missouri
as a state unless it abolished slavery, Jefferson suspected that
their real motive was power and not a concern about slavery itself:

Six years later the territorial legislature of Missouri asked for
admission. The House of Representatives in Washington approved,
but attached an amendment requiring that Missouri phase out slavery
after statehood. The Senate balked at such a stipulation. . . .
Jefferson saw Northern sectionalism conspiring to keep additional
Southern states out of the Union. The question of slavery carried
with it, according to the former president, “just enough semblance
of morality to throw dust into the eyes of the people, and to fanaticize
them; while with the knowing ones it is simply a question of power.”
(Cisco, Taking A Stand, p. 59)

In a letter to William Pinckney, Jefferson said,

The Missouri question is a mere party trick. The leaders of Federalism,
defeated in their schemes of obtaining power by rallying partisans
to the principle of monarchism . . . have changed their tack and
thrown out another barrel to the whale. They are taking advantage
of the virtuous feelings of the people to effect a division of parties
by a geographical line. They expect that this will ensure them,
on local principles, the majority that they could never obtain on
principles of Federalism. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to William
Pinckney, September 20, 1820, in Robert Catlett Cave, The Men In
Gray, Crawfordville, Georgia: Ruffin Flag Company, 1997, reprint
of original edition, p. 134)

The battle over Missouri and the Missouri Compromise brings us
to the charge that the South was trying to impose slavery on the
western territories. Confusion and misrepresentation abound on this

The Missouri Compromise, passed in 1820, limited the extension
of slavery to a small section of the territories of the Louisiana
Purchase. The compromise prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Purchase
north of the southern border of Missouri, or above the latitude
of 36030′, while allowing it below that line and in Missouri itself.
This meant that roughly 65 percent of the area of the Louisiana
Purchase was off-limits to slaveholders who wanted to travel or
settle there with their slaves. When the United States acquired
an even larger area of western territory as a result of the Mexican
Cession, slavery was still barred from roughly 65-70 percent of
the territories. If a slaveholder traveled with his slave through
any part of the territories where slavery was prohibited, he ran
the risk of losing his slave without compensation. If a slaveholder
wanted to settle in those territories, he couldn’t bring any
slaves with him. Most Southern leaders felt this was unfair and

In 1856 the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger Taney, ruled
in the Dred Scott decision that Congress did not have the right
to ban slavery in the territories and that therefore the Missouri
Compromise was unconstitutional. However, the Republicans immediately
announced that if they gained control of Congress, they would ban
slavery in all the territories, even though the Supreme Court had
just ruled that Congress had no right to ban slavery in any territory.
Most Southern leaders viewed the Republican position as unfair and

The Southern position was that each territory had the right to
abolish or legalize slavery when it applied for statehood, but that
until then slaveholders should have equal access to the territories.
Southern leaders argued that since the territories were supposed
to be the common possession of all citizens, it was unfair to ban
slaveholders from them, especially since slaveholders had played
an important role in winning the Mexican War, which resulted in
the acquisition of the territories granted in the Mexican Cession.

Most Southern leaders viewed equal access to the territories as
a matter of honor and principle, as well as a matter of law. They
felt it was wrong in principle to treat slaveholders as second-class
citizens by denying them equal access to the territories. They knew
that Northern wage slavery wasn’t banned from the territories.
They knew that Northern factory owners who cruelly abused their
workers enjoyed full access to the territories and were free to
bring their inhumane sweatshops with them. They knew that many slaveholders
treated their slaves much better than some Northern factory owners
treated their workers. So most Southern leaders felt it was unfair
and insulting to deny slaveholders equal access to the territories.

There were two major Southern positions on what should be done
to provide slaveholders full access to the territories. One position,
advocated by Senator Albert Brown, was that federal legislation
should mandate the protection of slavery in each territory until
the territory became a state. The other position, advanced by men
like Jefferson Davis, James Orr, and Alexander Stephens, was that
the people of each territory should be able to decide whether or
not to allow slaveholders to travel or settle among them with their
slaves (Cooper, Jefferson Davis, American, pp. 327-329). The Republicans,
on the other hand, argued that under no circumstances should any
territory be allowed to permit slavery, even though the territory
could choose to abolish slavery when it became a state.

It’s important to understand that most Republicans wanted
to ban slavery from the territories primarily because they wanted
to reserve the territories for white workers. When they were Whigs
or Free Soilers in 1846-1849, most Republican politicians, including
Lincoln, supported the Wilmot Proviso, which would have banned free
blacks from moving into the territories, in addition to banning
slavery there (Divine et al, editors, America Past and Present,
p. 413). Also, as mentioned earlier, in the 1860 election campaign
many Republican candidates championed their party as the true “White
Man’s Party” that would reserve the territories for
white labor. Lincoln’s attitude on this issue reflected the
thinking of most Republicans:

Now irrespective of the moral aspect of this question as to whether
there is a right or wrong in enslaving a negro, I am still in favor
of our new Territories being in such a condition that white men
may find a home—may find some spot where they can better their
condition—where they can settle upon new soil and better their
condition in life. I am in favor of this not merely (I must say
it here as I have elsewhere) for our own people who are born amongst
us, but as an outlet for free white people everywhere, the world
over. . . . (Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858, New
York: The Library of America, 1989, edited by Don Fehrenbacher,
p. 807)

Textbooks and virtually all history books summarily dismiss the
Supreme Court’s position on the Missouri Compromise in the
Dred Scott ruling. However, the court’s position on this issue
is by no means untenable. Critics of the decision note that the
congress of the Articles of Confederation passed the Northwest Ordinance,
which banned slavery in what was then the Northwest Territory. But
this by no means proves that the federal Congress had the right
to ban slavery in territories of the Union (Davis, Rise and Fall
of the Confederate Government, Volume 1, pp. 3-9; Benjamin Franklin
Grady, The Case of the South Against the North, Dahlonega, Georgia:
Crown Rights Book Company, 2003, reprint of original edition, pp.
258-260; Alexander Stephens, A Constitutional View of the Late War
Between the States, Volume 1, Philadelphia: The National Publishing
Company, 1868, Appendix G). James Madison, the “father of
the Constitution,” argued that slaveholders had the right
to travel throughout the Union with their slaves and that Congress
did not have the right to ban slavery in territories belonging to
the United States (Cisco, Taking A Stand, p. 59). During the congressional
debates on the Missouri Compromise, Charles Pinckney, who had been
a member of the Constitutional Convention, “reminded the House
of Representatives that the framers never intended that Congress
involve itself in slavery” (Cisco, Taking A Stand, p. 59).

On an aside note, Chief Justice Taney’s reputation has been
unfairly brutalized over the Dred Scott decision. Taney’s
position on the Missouri Compromise was and is credible and defensible,
and if he had stopped there he would have been on solid ground.
But, tragically and mistakenly, Taney also ruled in Dred Scott that
the Constitution barred blacks from federal citizenship, and that
the sublime statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all
men are created equal” did not apply to blacks. Civil rights
advocates were justifiably outraged by these arguments. However,
before we judge Taney too harshly, a few things should be said in
his defense. Although he argued that the Constitution did not permit
blacks to be United States citizens, he added that they could receive
state citizenship. As for Taney’s mistaken belief that blacks
were not included in the phrase “all men are created equal,”
even many Northerners shared this view at the time, including Senator
Stephen Douglas of Illinois. Lincoln himself didn’t believe
the phrase referred to inherent equality but only to legal equality
in certain respects, and more than once he called the Declaration
of Independence "the white-man’s charter of freedom" (Abraham
Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858, pp. 269, 477; see also
Bennett, Forced Into Glory, pp. 303-304). It should also be pointed
out that Taney had no love for slavery. In fact, Taney disliked
slavery and had long since freed his own slaves. Very few textbooks
mention these facts. To his credit, McPherson mentions them in his
book The Battle Cry of Freedom. McPherson also notes that Taney
was “committed to liberating American enterprise from the
shackles of special privilege,” that as President Jackson’s
secretary of the treasury he helped destroy the Second Bank of the
United States, and that as a Supreme Court justice he ruled against
special corporate charters (The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 173).
Northern historian James Ford Rhodes observed that in the years
leading up to the Dred Scott decision, Taney “had gained a
solid reputation for accurate knowledge of law and clearness of
statement” (“Antecedents of the American Civil War,”
in Rozwenc, editor, The Causes of the American Civil War, p. 58).
Incidentally, when Lincoln began to forcefully suppress political
opposition at the start of the war, it was Taney who had the courage
to tell Lincoln, in Ex Parte Merryman, that he had no right to suspend
habeas corpus protection against illegal arrest and that only Congress
had that right. Lincoln ignored the decision and reportedly wanted
to have Taney arrested.

Any response to the charge that the South controlled the federal
government before the war wouldn’t be complete without an
examination of the Brooks-Sumner incident. The incident is often
cited as an example of the South’s alleged intolerance and
barbarism even in the halls of Congress. On May 22, 1856, Representative
Preston Brooks of South Carolina walked onto the floor of the Senate
carrying a cane. Brooks was looking for Senator Charles Sumner of
Massachusetts. Sumner, a Radical Republican, had crudely insulted
Brooks’s aged uncle, Senator Andrew Butler, in a Senate speech
two days earlier. Brooks saw Sumner sitting at his desk on the Senate
floor. He approached Sumner, told him his speech was insulting,
and without warning proceeded to strike him several times with the
cane. Sumner struggled to rise from his desk, but collapsed as Brooks
continued to strike him. The degree of injury that Sumner suffered
is still debated, but it seems clear that his injuries were rather
serious. Over the next several months, Sumner did return to the
Senate two or three times to cast votes on key issues. But some
of his wounds became infected and he suffered painful headaches.
He then went on an extended trip to Europe to seek a cure for his
headaches. While in Europe, he “led a fairly active social
life” (Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 127). He returned to the
Senate full-time three years later. To his credit, Sumner publicly
forgave Brooks for the assault. For his part, Brooks viewed the
attack as an unpleasant duty required by the code of honor, and
he explained that he had not intended to hurt Sumner but only to
punish him for his insulting speech.

Shortly after the attack, Northern congressmen tried to expel Brooks
from the House, but they failed to achieve the two-thirds majority
required for expulsion. Northern politicians were outraged that
Southern representatives wouldn’t vote to expel Brooks. Not
all Southern congressmen necessarily condoned Brooks’s assault,
but most of them believed that Sumner had behaved in a rudely provocative
manner and that therefore Brooks’s conduct did not warrant
expulsion. I can’t condone Brooks’s behavior. By any
reasonable measurement, his use of force was excessive. I suspect
I would have voted to expel him from the House, or at least to censure
him. However, I agree with Lloyd Paul Stryker that the attack “was
provoked if any ever was” (Andrew Johnson, p. 51). Senator
Douglas of Illinois found Sumner’s speech so inflammatory
that he accused Sumner of trying “to provoke some one of us
to kick him as one would a dog in the street” (Stryker, Andrew
Johnson, pp. 50-51). Randall and Donald said the speech was “intemperate
and abusive” and that it included “ugly denunciation”
and “an offensive personal attack” against Brooks’s
uncle (The Civil War and Reconstruction, p. 101). Simkins said the
following about the Brooks-Sumner incident:

The way in which events in Kansas poisoned the atmosphere is vividly
illustrated by the Brooks-Sumner affair in the halls of Congress.
A few days before John Brown’s attack at Pottawatomie, Senator
Charles Sumner of Massachusetts delivered his “Crime Against
Kansas” speech in which he accepted without question the authenticity
of every charge against the proslavery element in Kansas, and heaped
personal abuse upon the unoffending and aged Senator Andrew P. Butler
of South Carolina. “It is his object,” commented Douglas
on the effort of the Massachusetts senator, “to provoke some

one of us to kick him as one would a dog in the street, that he
may get sympathy upon the just chastisement.” Two days after
Sumner had spoken, Douglas’s suggestion was carried out. Preston
S. Brooks, a representative from South Carolina and a kinsman of
Butler, got the satisfaction of a Southern gentleman by beating
the vituperative New Englander into insensibility with a gutta-percha
walking stick while Sumner was sitting at his desk in the Senate.
. . .

Many Southerners believed that Brooks’s act was unwise because
it played into the hands of the abolitionists, although there were
few who felt that it was not justified. His Southern colleagues
prevented his expulsion from Congress by refusing the necessary
two-thirds majority, and when he resigned voluntarily he was re-elected
with only six votes cast against him. Enthusiastic friends presented
him with suitably inscribed canes and wrote exultant editorials.
Brooks did not like these vulgar manifestations of approval. He
was a courtly gentleman far removed from the ruffian depicted in
the abolitionist propaganda. To him the chastisement of Sumner was
an unpleasant duty under a code of honor which required that the
slanderer of a helpless kinsman should not go unpunished. (A History
of the South, p. 200)

Southern author Lyon G. Tyler pointed out that when one Northern
congressman attacked another Northern congressman in an earlier
incident similar to the Brooks-Sumner affair, neither offender was
expelled and both were reelected:

The remarkable point is that New England set the example for Sumner’s
flagellation. In 1798 Roger Griswold, a high-strutting Federalist
of Connecticut, grossly insulted Matthew Lyon, a Democratic Republican
of Vermont, and Lyon spat in his face. A motion was made to expel
Lyon, but his party in Congress, while condemning his conduct, thought
that he had great provocation and refused to vote for it. Thereupon
after several weeks Griswold attacked Lyon, while writing at his
desk, with a thick hickory cane, rather a contrast to the small
gutta-percha stick employed by Brooks, which was hollow and broke
into pieces in Brooks’ hand. Lyon was, like Sumner, caught
in his seat, but he managed with his arm to protect his head from
injury and, releasing himself, gallantly charged his opponent. .
. . The House refused to expel either Griswold or Lyon, and by vote
of their New England constituents both were returned to Congress
at the next election in 1800. Were their constituencies necessarily
degraded on this account? (A Confederate Catechism, pp. 54-55)

The Reconstruction Era

Time only allows me to provide a limited sketch of the “Reconstruction”
program that the Republicans imposed on the South after the war.
I don’t deny that some good things were accomplished during
Reconstruction. Nor do I deny that Reconstruction, as bad as it
was, could have been worse. However, most textbooks only talk about
the good aspects of Reconstruction and either ignore or minimize
the negative aspects. The unjust, illegal aspects of Reconstruction
merit discussion.

Reconstruction began in 1865 and officially ended in 1877. The
Radicals took substantial control of Reconstruction in 1867. Reconstruction
was bad enough from the outset, but it became much worse under Radical
influence. The Radicals illegally placed the South under military
rule. They divided the South into five military districts, each
governed by a Union army general. They nullified the recent Southern
elections and refused to allow Southern congressmen to take their
seats in Congress, even though these men had been elected in elections
that were just as valid as any election that had been held in the
North. Not content with their political subjugation of the South,
the Radicals and other Republicans allowed the Southern states to
be looted and exploited for years by Northern business interests
and by corrupt Reconstruction governments. The Radicals did these
things over the strenuous objections of Lincoln’s successor,
President Andrew Johnson.

The Radicals also shamelessly contradicted the earlier Republican
claim that the Southern states had not left the Union. During the
war, Lincoln and other Republicans made the bizarre argument that
the Southern states had not really left the Union but that they
had been taken over by “combinations” too powerful for
local authorities to suppress. According to this pathetic argument,
Lincoln wasn’t invading the Southern states; rather, he was
merely liberating them from the “combinations” that
had supposedly seized control of them. Well, once the war was over,
the Radicals decided that the Southern states had left the Union
after all, and that they couldn’t be readmitted until they
complied with Republican demands. This amazing reversal made a mockery
of the Republicans’ pre-war assertion that the war was not
being waged to subjugate the South.

During the worst period of Reconstruction, Southerners who voiced
objections to Republican policy could be jailed, and even executed,
without indictment or trial. Southern newspapers that criticized
Reconstruction ran the real risk of being shut down, and some newspapers
were closed down for this reason. Federal troops were stationed
all over the South, and in many cases their conduct was disgraceful
and abusive. Many Republican operatives and other Northerners who
came to the South poisoned race relations by inciting former slaves
to hate and persecute Southern whites. The Republicans made it illegal
for males who had served in the Confederate army or in the Confederate
government to vote or hold public office. Ex-Confederates could
only vote if they were willing to lie by taking the “ironclad
oath.” The oath disqualified any man who had served in the
Confederacy or who had even “aided” the Confederacy.
Of course, this excluded a large majority of Southern men. To their
credit, some Southern black leaders opposed denying former Confederates
the right to vote, but their efforts were unsuccessful. New Southern
legislatures and governors were chosen in elections in which most
former Confederates were barred from voting. These corrupt Reconstruction
state governments imposed oppressive taxes on their citizens and
also stole or wasted a staggering amount of taxpayer money. Historian
Albert B. Moore noted the vindictive, unjust nature of Reconstruction:

The war set the stage for a complete reconstruction of the South.
Furious hatred, politics, economic considerations, and a curious
conviction that God had joined a righteous North to use it as an
instrument for the purging of the wicked South gave a keen edge
to the old reconstruction urge. The victories of bullets and bayonets
were followed by the equally victorious attack of tongues and press.
Ministers mounted their pulpits on Easter Sunday, the day following
President Lincoln’s tragic death, and assured their sad auditors
that God’s will had been done, that the President had been
removed because his heart was too merciful to punish the South as
God required. An eminent New York divine assured his audience that
the vice-regent of Christ, the new president, Andrew Johnson, was
mandated from on high “to hew the rebels in pieces before
the Lord.” “So let us say,” with becoming piety
and sweet submissiveness he enjoined, “God’s will be
done.” Whether the ministers thought, after they discovered
that Johnson was opposed to a reign of terror, that the Lord had
made a mistake is not a matter of record. . . .

Many unfriendly writers invaded the South, found what they wanted,
and wrote books, articles, and editorials that strengthened the
conviction that the South must be torn to pieces and made anew.
Books, journals, and newspapers stimulated the impulse to be vigilant
and stern, to repress and purge. . . .

The repudiation of its debts impoverished the South and destroyed
its financial relationships. While the South lost its debts, it
had to pay its full share of the northern debts which amounted to
about four-fifths of the total northern war expenses. The money
for this debt was spent in the North for its upbuilding. It paid
also its share of the $20,000,000 returned by the Federal treasury
to the northern states for direct taxes collected from them during
the war, and of extravagant pensions to Union soldiers. Professor
James L. Sellers estimates that the Sound paid in these ways an
indemnity of at least a billion dollars to the North. . . .

It would be safe to say that the people of the North never understood
how the South suffered during the Radical regime. The Radicals who
controlled most of the organs of public opinion were in no attitude
of mind to listen to southern complaints, and most people were too
busy with the pursuit of alluring business opportunities that unfolded
before them to think much of what was going on down South. . . .

The South staggered out of the Reconstruction, which ended officially
in 1877, embittered, impoverished, encumbered with debt, and discredited
by Radical propaganda. . . . The tax load had been devastating.
The lands of thousands upon thousands had been sold for taxes. Huge
state and local debts, much of which was fraudulent, had been piled
up. So many bonds, legal and illegal, had been sold that public
credit was destroyed. (In Gerald Grob and George Billias, editors,
Interpretations of American History, Volume 2, New York: The Free
Press, 1967, pp. 33-35, 37-38, original emphasis)

Hummel notes the heavy tax burden that was imposed on the South
after the war:

. . . the war-ravaged South suffered under some of the heaviest
state and local taxation in proportion to wealth in U.S. history.
Tax rates in 1870 were three or four times what they had been in
1860, even though property values had declined significantly. Many
who had not lost their land already were now forced into bankruptcy.
At one point 15 percent of all taxable land in Mississippi was up
for sale because of tax defaults. (Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving
Free Men, p. 316)

Economist Thomas DiLorenzo discusses some of the ways in which
Republicans and Northern business interests exploited the South
during Reconstruction:

What did the Republican Party do with its monopolistic political
power? First, it plundered Southern taxpayers by greatly expanding
state and local governmental budgets. Little of this governmental
expansion benefited the general public; the main beneficiaries were
the thousands of “carpetbaggers” (and a few “scalawags”)
who populated the newly bloated governmental bureaucracies and who
benefited from government contracts. . . .

The biggest item on the agenda of the Republicans was government
subsidies to the corporations that bankrolled the Republican Party.
The Confederate Constitution outlawed such corporate welfare, but
with the defeat of the Confederate armies there was no longer any
opposition to it.

From 1866 to 1872 the eleven southern states amassed nearly $132
million in state debt for railroad subsidies alone. In countless
instances bonds were issued but were backed by no property of any
value. In many states bonds were sold before work began on railroads,
and “dishonest promoters sold these bonds for what they could
get and never built the roads.” [Quoting E. M. Coulter, The
South during Reconstruction, LSU Press, p. 150]. . . .

The federal government established a “Land Commission”
that was ostensibly set up to buy property and turn it into homesteads
for ex-slaves. Instead, most of the land was handed out to those
with good connections to the Republican Party. . . . Many recipients
of land grants were paid “front men” for mining and
timber companies.

Many of the Republican Party operatives who dominated Southern
legislatures during Reconstruction literally sold their votes for
cash on a daily basis: The going rate was just under $300 per vote.
. . . The expansion of government provided myriad opportunities
for bribery, and Republican Party opportunists took great advantage
of them. . . .

The historian E. Merton Coulter catalogued myriad ways in which
Republican Party operatives figured out how to loot Southern taxpayers:

* By 1870 the cost of printing alone to the government of Florida
exceeded the entire state budget for 1860. The legislature sold
to its friends (and to itself) over a million acres of public land
for five cents an acre.

* The South Carolina legislature paid supporters $75,000 to take
a state census in 1869, although the federal government was to do
the same thing a year later for $43,000. It also paid the House
Speaker an extra $1,000 in compensation after he lost $1,000 on
a horse race.

* Before the war a session of the Louisiana legislature cost about
$100,000 to run; after the war the cost exceeded $1 million because
of lavish spending on lunches, alcohol, women’s apparel, and
even coffins. The Louisiana legislature also purchased a hotel for
$250,000 that had just sold for $84,000 and chartered a navigation
company and purchased $100,000 in stock even though the company
never came into being. . . .

* Taxes on property were increased by intolerable amounts so that
the governmental agents could then confiscate the property for “unpaid
taxes”. . . . By 1872 property taxes in the South were, on
average, about four times what they were in 1860. In South Carolina,
the birthplace of the secessionist movement, they were thirty times
higher. This was devastating to the Southern economy and makes a
mockery of the very term “Reconstruction.”

The tax collectors stole much of this money. More than half a million
dollars in taxes collected in 1872 were never turned in to the Florida
treasury. . . .

Although the South was economically destitute, a punitive five
cents per pound federal tax was placed on cotton, making it difficult,
if not impossible, for many cotton growers to stay in business.
A military order stated that anyone who had sold cotton to the Confederate
government must give up his cotton to the U.S. government. Hundreds
of U.S. Treasury agents swarmed over the South, confiscating cotton
with the backing of armed U.S. troops. Little money was raised for
the U.S. Treasury, however, for the Treasury agents embezzled much
of it. . . .

In order to keep this corrupt system running, the Republican-controlled
governments subsidized pro-Republican newspapers to the tune of
tens of thousands of dollars annually and, in some cases, granted
them legal monopolies in the newspaper business in particular towns.
In effect, the Republicans were extending Lincoln’s policy
of censoring or shutting down opposition newspapers in the North
during the war. (The Real Lincoln, pp. 211-212, 213, 214, 215-217)

As noted, Northern business interests took full advantage of the
South’s subjugation during Reconstruction. African-American
scholars Franklin and Moss note that “Northern financiers
and industrialists took advantage of the opportunity to impose their
economic control on the South, and much of it endured for generations”
(From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, p. 264).
Kenneth Davis concedes that Southern railroad companies were "burdened
for decades by unfair rates and restrictive tariffs set by Northerners,
who controlled the vast majority of railways and the legislatures
that set rates" (Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, pp. 425-426).

“But,” some will ask, “wasn’t slavery abolished
under Reconstruction?” Yes, slavery was abolished during the
Johnson phase of Reconstruction when the Thirteenth Amendment was
ratified on December 18, 1865. We can all agree that slavery was
wrong and that it needed to be abolished. But it was abolished in
a way that was unfair and that caused enormous damage to the Southern
economy. Under the Thirteenth Amendment, Southern slaveholders received
no compensation for their slaves. The abolition of slavery without
compensation cost the South about two billion dollars in capital,
and it reduced real estate values by at least that amount. In terms
of modern monetary value, this represented a total loss of over
sixty billion dollars.

Southern slaveholders should have been able to recover the cost
of their slaves, just as Northern slaveholders had been able to
do decades earlier. Most Southern slaveholders treated their slaves
humanely. Many of these men believed they had a Christian duty to
properly and respectfully care for their slaves. One doesn’t
have to condone human bondage to acknowledge that in most cases
Southern slavery was administered humanely. This isn’t the
place for an extended discussion on slavery in the pre-war South,
but it should be pointed out that Southern slaves had a life expectancy
that was comparable to urban populations and higher than in Europe,
that 66-80 percent of slave marriages were not broken up, that nearly
40 percent of the marriages performed in Southern Episcopal churches
between 1800 and 1860 were slave marriages, that even in the 1850s
many slaves were able to buy their freedom because they were permitted
to earn money, and that hundreds of thousands of slaves were converted
to Christianity (Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men,
p. 40; McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, pp. 34-36; John Blassingame, The
Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, Revised
and Enlarged Edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 1979, p.
169; Allan Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln, Volume 2, New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950, p. 161). Granted, no matter how humanely
slavery was administered, it was still wrong. The point is that
most Southern slaveholders did not deserve to lose their slaves
without compensation, and that this unfair policy did great damage
to the South’s economy.

Textbooks note the fact that Radical Reconstruction included civil
rights reforms that enabled former slaves to vote. However, they
almost never mention information that sheds important light on those
reforms. If the Republicans had enacted and implemented these reforms
in a legal, ethical manner, and if their motives for doing so had
been noble, they would deserve nothing but praise. But such was
not the case. Most Republican leaders supported the imposition of
these reforms because they wanted to control and exploit the Southern
states, not because they really cared about the fate of the ex-slaves.
Republican operatives manipulated, and sometimes even coerced, ex-slaves
to vote Republican so the Republican Party could take over Southern
state governments. Once the Republicans achieved this goal, they
proceeded to engage in large-scale corruption and oppression, which
harmed blacks and whites alike. A respected moderate Southern leader
in Mississippi warned President Johnson that the Republican-created
Freedmen’s Bureau was “demoralizing the negroes, robbing
and defrauding them” (Felicity Allen, Jefferson Davis: Unconquerable
Heart, Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1999, p.
472). DiLorenzo sheds further light on how and why the Republicans
imposed civil rights reforms during Reconstruction:

Great resources were expended on registering the adult male ex-slaves
to vote, while a law denying the franchise to anyone involved in
the late “rebellion” disenfranchised [took away the
right to vote from] most Southern white men. So rigorous were the
restrictions placed on white Southern males that anyone who even
organized contributions of food and clothing for family and friends
in the Confederate army was disenfranchised, as were all those who
purchased bonds from the Confederate government. Even if one did
not participate in the war effort, voter registration required one
to publicly proclaim that one’s sympathies were with the Federal
armies during the war. . . .

The federally funded “Union Leagues” were run by Republican
Party operatives and administered voter registration of the ex-slaves.
This, too, was a dramatic change in the nation’s political
life, for tax dollars taken from taxpayers of all political parties
were being used to register only Republican voters. The ex-slaves
were promised many things, including the property of white Southerners,
if they registered and voted Republican and, at times, were threatened
or intimidated if they dared to register Democrat. All of this was
funded with federal tax dollars. . . . For years, these men, along
with government bureaucrats associated with the “Freedmen’s
Bureau,” promised blacks that if they voted Republican they
would be given the property of the white population (and, of course,
they never were).

Missionaries and many other people assisted the ex-slaves in integrating
into society, but the primary concern of the Party of Lincoln was
to get them registered to vote Republican, not to educate them,
feed them, or help them find employment. The result was that by
1868 ten of the fourteen southern U.S. senators, twenty of the thirty-give
representatives, and four of the seven governors were Northern Republicans
who had never met their constituents until after the war. . . .

If Northerners in general and the Republican Party in particular
wanted blacks to be given the vote because of their concern for
social equality, then one has to wonder why voters in Ohio, Michigan,
Minnesota, and Kansas refused to extend the right to vote to blacks
in 1867 and 1868. . . . (The Real Lincoln, pp. 208-210, original

Civil rights could and should have been advanced through legal,
ethical means. Yes, this would have taken longer, but it would have
preserved the constitutional republic that our founding fathers
gave us, and all Americans would have been better off in the long
run. Instead, in the name of imposing civil rights on the South,
the Republicans, led by the Radicals, subverted the rule of law,
permitted Republican operatives to engage in astonishing corruption,
looted the South for years, poisoned race relations, illegally and
unethically amended the Constitution, further destroyed the balance
of power between the states and the federal government, and empowered
the federal government to perform functions that the founding fathers
did not want it to perform.

I would like to conclude this discussion on Reconstruction by quoting
a substantial portion of President Johnson’s veto of the first
Radical Reconstruction Act. Before doing so, I should point out
that the Radicals tried to remove Johnson from office because he
opposed their Reconstruction program, even though he had staunchly
supported the war and had opposed secession. When Lincoln was assassinated,
some Radicals said Lincoln’s death was “a godsend to
the country” because they believed Johnson, unlike Lincoln,
would help them ravage the South (Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction,
1865-1877, p. 50; John Hope Franklin, Reconstruction After the Civil
War, University of Chicago Press, 1961, pp. 26-30). When the Radicals
realized Johnson was not going to cooperate with them, they turned
on him with a vengeance. They impeached (i.e., indicted) him in
the House and then put him on trial in the Senate, on the basis
of utterly frivolous charges–they fell just one vote short of the
two-thirds majority required for conviction. Amazingly, a few Radicals
even tried to frame Johnson for Lincoln’s murder. For his
part, President Johnson came to suspect that some of the Radicals
had been behind Lincoln’s assassination because Lincoln, for
whatever reasons, opposed their plans to oppress and plunder the
defeated South. In any case, the Radicals overturned Johnson’s
veto. Therefore, their Reconstruction program became law and was
imposed on ten of the eleven Southern states (the one exception
was Tennessee). Here is some of what President Johnson had to say
about the first Reconstruction Act and why he refused to sign it:

I have examined the bill "to provide for the more efficient
government of the rebel States" with the care and the anxiety
which its transcendent importance is calculated to awaken. I am
unable to give it my assent for reasons so grave that I hope a statement
of them may have some influence on the minds of the patriotic and
enlightened men with whom the decision must ultimately rest. The
bill places all the people of the ten States therein named under
the absolute domination of military rulers. . . .

The bill . . . would seem to show upon its face that the establishment
of peace and good order is not its real object. The fifth section
declares that the preceding sections shall cease to operate in any
State where certain events shall have happened. . . . All these
conditions must be fulfilled before the people of any of these States
can be relieved from the bondage of military domination; but when
they are fulfilled, then immediately the pains and penalties of
the bill are to cease, no matter whether there be peace and order
or not, and without any reference to the security of life or property.
The excuse given for the bill in the preamble is admitted by the
bill itself not to be real. The military rule which it establishes
is plainly to be used, not for any purpose of order or for the prevention
of crime, but solely as a means of coercing the people into the
adoption of principles and measures to which it is known that they
are opposed, and upon which they have an undeniable right to exercise
their own judgment.

I submit to Congress whether this measure is not in its whole character,
scope, and object without precedent and without authority, in palpable
conflict with the plainest provisions of the Constitution, and utterly
destructive to those great principles of liberty and humanity for
which our ancestors on both sides of the Atlantic have shed so much
blood and expended so much treasure.

The ten States named in the bill are divided into five districts.
For each district an officer of the Army, not below the rank of
a brigadier-general, is to be appointed to rule over the people;
and he is to be supported with an efficient military force to enable
him to perform his duties and enforce his authority. Those duties
and that authority, as defined by the third section of the bill,
are "to protect all persons in their rights of person and property,
to suppress insurrection, disorder, and violence, and to punish
or cause to be punished all disturbers of the public peace or criminals."

The power thus given to the commanding officer over all the people
of each district is that of an absolute monarch. His mere will is
to take the place of all law. The law of the States is now the only
rule applicable to the subjects placed under his control, and that
is completely displaced by the clause which declares all interference
of State authority to be null and void. He alone is permitted to
determine what are rights of person or property, and he may protect
them in such way as in his discretion may seem proper. It places
at his free disposal all the lands and goods in his district, and
he may distribute them without let or hindrance to whom he pleases.
Being bound by no State law, and there being no other law to regulate
the subject, he may make a criminal code of his own; and he can
make it as bloody as any recorded in history, or he can reserve
the privilege of acting upon the impulse of his private passions
in each case that arises. He is bound by no rules of evidence; there
is, indeed, no provision by which he is authorized or required to
take any evidence at all. Everything is a crime which he chooses
to call so, and all persons are condemned whom he pronounces to
be guilty. He is not bound to keep and record or make any report
of his proceedings. He may arrest his victims wherever he finds
them, without warrant, accusation, or proof of probable cause. If
he gives them a trial before he inflicts the punishment, he gives
it of his grace and mercy, not because he is commanded so to do.
It is plain that the authority here given to the military officer
amounts to absolute despotism. But to make it still more unendurable,
the bill provides that it may be delegated to as many subordinates
as he chooses to appoint, for it declares that he shall "punish
or cause to be punished."

Such a power has not been wielded by any monarch in England for
more than five hundred years. In all that time no people who speak
the English language have borne such servitude. It reduces the whole
population of the ten States–all persons, of every color, sex,
and condition, and every stranger within their limits–to the most
abject and degrading slavery. No master ever had a control so absolute
over the slaves as this bill gives to the military officers over
both white and colored persons.

I come now to a question which is, if possible still more important.
Have we the power to establish and carry into execution a measure
like this? I answer, Certainly not, if we derive our authority from
the Constitution and if we are bound by the limitations which it
imposes. This proposition is perfectly clear, that no branch of
the Federal Government–executive, legislative, or judicial–can
have any just powers except those which it derives through and exercises
under the organic law of the Union. Outside of the Constitution
we have no legal authority more than private citizens, and within
it we have only so much as that instrument gives us. This broad
principle limits all our functions and applies to all subjects.
It protects not only the citizens of States which are within the
Union, but it shields every human being who comes or is brought
under our jurisdiction. We have no right to do in one place more
than in another that which the Constitution says we shall not do
at all. . . .

I need not say to the representatives of the American people that
their Constitution forbids the exercise of judicial power in any
way but one–that is, by the ordained and established courts. It
is equally well known that in all criminal cases a trial by jury
is made indispensable by the express words of that instrument. .
. .

An act of Congress is proposed which, if carried out, would deny
a trial by the lawful courts and juries to 9,000,000 American citizens
and to their posterity for an indefinite period. It seems to be
scarcely possible that anyone should seriously believe this consistent
with a Constitution which declares in simple, plain, and unambiguous
language that all persons shall have that right and that no person
shall ever in any case be deprived of it. The Constitution also
forbids the arrest of the citizen without judicial warrant, founded
on probable cause. This bill authorizes an arrest without warrant,
at the pleasure of a military commander. The Constitution declares
that "no person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise
infamous crime unless on presentment by a grand jury". . .

The United States are bound to guarantee to each State a republican
form of government. Can it be pretended that this obligation is
not palpably broken if we carry out a measure like this, which wipes
away every vestige of republican government in ten States and puts
the life, property, liberty, and honor of all the people in each
of them under the domination of a single person clothed with unlimited
authority?. . .

It is a part of our public history which can never be forgotten
that both houses of Congress, in July 1861, declared in the form
of a solemn resolution that the war was and should be carried on
for no purpose of subjugation. . . . This resolution was adopted
and sent forth to the world unanimously by the Senate and with only
two dissenting voices in the House. It was accepted by the friends
of the Union in the South as well as in the North as expressing
honestly and truly the object of the war. On the faith of it many
thousands of persons in both sections gave their lives and their
fortunes to the cause. To repudiate it now by refusing to the States
and to the individuals within them the rights which the Constitution
and laws of the Union would secure to them is a breach of our plighted
honor for which I can imagine no excuse and to which I can not voluntarily
become a party. . . . (Veto of the first Reconstruction Act, March
2, 1867)

The True Nature of the War

In reality, the Civil War was not a civil war. In a civil war,
two or more factions fight for control of the national government.
But the South was not trying to overthrow the national government,
nor was it trying to achieve exclusive control of the government.
The South merely wanted to leave the federal government in peace
and was willing to pay its share of the national debt and to pay
compensation for federal installations in the Southern states. The
Confederacy tried to establish peaceful relations with the federal
government, but Lincoln refused to even meet with Confederate representatives.

The Civil War was a war of aggression against the South. Republican
leaders and their Northern industrialist backers used the force
of the federal government to destroy Southern independence. Some
of these men despised the South. Radical Republicans saw in secession
an excuse to subjugate and exploit the Southern states. Northern
business leaders who bankrolled the Republicans feared that their
financial empire would be threatened if the Confederate states were
able to trade directly with other nations with the much lower Confederate
tariff. The Republicans weren’t about to lower the tariff,
since they were committed to drastically raising it (which they
did soon after the South seceded). Rather than fairly compete with
the low Confederate tariff by lowering the federal tariff, the Republicans
and their Northern financial backers opted to destroy the Confederacy
by force. Charles Adams demonstrates that after the Confederacy
announced its low tariff, influential Northern business interests
began to strongly oppose peaceful separation and Lincoln’s
cabinet quickly reversed itself and adopted a hardline stance on
Fort Sumter (When In the Course of Human Events, pp. 61-70). Simkins
said the following about the motives behind the federal invasion,
race relations in the North, and what happened when Southern influence
was removed from the federal government:

Northern industrial and financial leaders wished to destroy the
influence of the agrarian South in Washington in order to use the
powers of the federal government to their own advantage. Northern
common people wished slavery restricted or abolished because they
objected to the competition of cheap labor, not because they wished
to make the bondsmen their equals. Both of these groups revealed
their intentions when Southern influence was removed from the federal
capital and when the Negro was free. The business leaders imposed
high tariffs, constitutional protection to corporations, monetary
deflation, and centralized banking. The common people denied the
free Negro access to Western lands [the western territories] and
imposed upon him caste restrictions in some respects sharper than
those of the South. “It is not humanity,” said Jefferson
Davis to the North in 1861, “that influences you in the position
that you now occupy before the country. . . . It is that you may
have a majority in the Congress of the United States and convert
the government into an engine of Northern aggrandizement. It is
that your section may grow in power and prosperity upon treasures
unjustly taken from the South.” (A History of the South, p.

Even Lerone Bennett, an African-American scholar who is strongly
critical of the Confederacy, agrees that the Northern industrialists
supported the war for monetary gain, had no interest in emancipation,
and used blacks as pawns:

There was finally—and conclusively—the game plan of
the Northern industrialists, who were fighting not for Black freedom
or, to tell the truth, White freedom, but for the freedom to exploit
and develop the American market. Everything indeed suggests that
Ralph J. Bunche was correct when he said that the freeing of the
slaves was “only an incident in the violent clash of interests
between the industrial North and the agricultural South—a
conflict that was resolved in favor of the industrial North. In
this struggle the Negro was an innocent pawn.” (Forced Into
Glory, pp. 547-548)

Most Republican leaders, while claiming they were “saving”
the Union and preserving representative government, were undemocratic
and despotic. The worst offenders were the Radical Republicans,
but other Republicans were almost as bad. The Republicans and their
generals imprisoned thousands of Northern citizens in order to suppress
Northern opposition to the war. They shut down hundreds of Northern
newspapers and jailed dozens of newspaper editors for expressing
“unpatriotic” views. They suspended the writ of habeas
corpus (protection against unlawful arrest), rigged elections, prevented
two Northern legislatures from convening, and branded as “traitors”
Northern political opponents who spoke out against federal violations
of civil rights. In one case, they arrested thirty-one members of
the Maryland legislature and sealed off the town where the legislature
was meeting. When it became known that former president Franklin
Pierce believed the war was cruel and unnecessary, Republicans accused
him of treason and nearly had him arrested. (Pierce feared the true
purpose of the war was to wipe out the states as sovereign entities
and to drastically increase the power of the federal government
in violation of the Constitution. Pierce also believed it was wrong
to hold the Union together by force.)

The Republicans and their generals waged a shameful form of “total
war” against the South, causing the deaths of some 50,000
Southern civilians and wiping out whole towns in the process. They
hired thousands of unscrupulous mercenaries, including many criminals
fresh from European jails. They violated just about every rule of
civilized warfare known to man. They used tactics that today would
justify prosecution for war crimes. A few Union generals, including
George McClellan, objected to this cruel form of warfare, and at
least one general, Don C. Buell, resigned from the army in protest–but
these men were the exception, not the rule. On the other hand, the
vast majority of Confederate generals refused to use the brutal
tactics that so many Union generals were using. At one point, some
Confederate officials urged Jefferson Davis to order Confederate
forces to employ the barbaric tactics that were being used by Union
generals like William Tecumseh Sherman and Phil Sheridan, but Davis
refused. If the South had won, several Union generals could have
been tried and hung for war crimes. Most Republican leaders, including
Lincoln, strongly backed those generals. (A sobering collection
of Union war atrocities is presented in Thomas Bland Keys’
book The Uncivil War: Union Army and Navy Excesses in the Official
Records, Biloxi, Mississippi: The Beauvoir Press, 1991, which is
based almost exclusively on Union army records.)

After the war, most Republican leaders continued to violate the
Constitution. They imposed a clearly illegal military rule on the
Southern states and proceeded to plunder those states for years.
The Radicals and their supporters in the Union army accused and
jailed Jefferson Davis on the absurd charge that he was involved
in the conspiracy that killed Lincoln. They based this charge on
evidence that was later found to be fraudulent. They tried to remove
President Johnson from office for opposing their illegal plans to
ravage the South and for daring to defy their attempt to prevent
him from replacing Edwin Stanton as secretary of war. Can you imagine
the outcry that would arise today if Congress tried to force the
president to retain a cabinet member against his will? The Radicals
also sought to remove Johnson because he had attacked them in his
campaign speeches: Incredibly, one of the charges on which the Radicals
impeached Johnson in the House was that his speeches in the 1866
election campaign allegedly constituted “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Radicals came close to establishing a military dictatorship
in the name of “reconstructing” the defeated Southern
states. The Radicals passed a bill that said the military didn’t
have to obey the president’s orders unless the commanding
general of the Army approved those orders (McDonald, States’
Rights and the Union, p. 213). The bill also made it a crime for
any officer to obey orders except those that came from the commanding
general (Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 298). Just imagine what most
Americans would think if Congress even considered such a law in
our day—it would be denounced as a dangerous step toward military

Or, just imagine what most Americans today would think if the secretary
of defense refused to step down when suspended by the president
but instead barricaded himself in his office, issued an order for
the arrest of the man appointed to replace him, and asked friendly
members of Congress to intervene. And imagine what most Americans
would think if the commanding general of the Army then stationed
troops around the Pentagon in order to keep the secretary of defense
in power against the president’s express wishes. Impossible?
Couldn’t happen in America? Well, that’s exactly what
happened when President Johnson tried to replace Stanton as secretary
of war. When Johnson appointed Lorenzo Thomas to replace Stanton,
Stanton barricaded himself in his office, issued an order for Thomas’s
arrest, and asked his fellow Radicals to help him remain in power.
General Ulysses S. Grant then stationed troops around the War Department
building and authorized them to call for reinforcements if necessary.
Historian Elizabeth D. Leonard says the following about this episode:

Meanwhile, General Grant in effect placed the army in direct opposition
to the President by publicly throwing his support behind Stanton
and positioning armed guards around the War Department building.
This immediately gave rise to anxious rumors that violence, and
perhaps even a new civil war, was about to erupt in the capital.
(Lincoln’s Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion after the
Civil War, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 279)

During this same period, Grant told President Johnson that he would
only obey his orders if they were written. This was serious insubordination.
“Since when,” asked Stryker, “had a general the
right to tell the President of the United States that he would disobey
his commands unless they were in writing?” (Andrew Johnson,
p. 547). Since Stanton was illegally refusing to step down as secretary
of war, Johnson issued a written order to Grant that he not obey
orders from Stanton unless he knew for a fact that Johnson had authorized
them. Grant then suggested to Johnson, in writing, that he would
not obey this order and that he would continue to assume that Stanton’s
orders were authorized by the president (Andrew Johnson, p. 549).
During Johnson’s trial in the Senate, Grant took the highly
inappropriate step of writing to Senator Henderson of Missouri to
urge him to vote for a guilty verdict.

There were other Radical abuses. In January 1868, the Radicals
and most of their fellow Republicans passed a bill, over Johnson’s
veto, that transferred all of Johnson’s authority in Reconstruction
to General Grant. The Radicals also worked to deny President Johnson
his constitutional authority to appoint justices to the Supreme
Court by amending the Judiciary Act so the president couldn’t
fill vacancies that might occur on the high court (McDonald, States’
Rights and the Union, p. 211). After Edwin Stanton barricaded himself
in his office and asked the Radicals for help, two Radicals, Senator
Zachary Chandler and Representative John Logan, personally led a
company of one hundred men to guard the War Department building
(Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 335).

When even the Lincoln-packed Supreme Court tried to curb Republican
lawlessness, the Radicals reacted with outrage. In the Ex Parte
Milligan case, the high court finally gathered enough courage to
conclude that it was illegal to impose military rule on civilians
in non-combat areas where civil courts were still in operation (which
was what the Republicans had been doing, in the North, for much
of the war). The Radicals were furious with this ruling, partly
because it implied they had committed judicial murder, since several
civilians had been sentenced to death by federal military courts.
Then, in Ex Parte McCardle, the Supreme Court upheld the right of
habeas corpus and reaffirmed the principle that civilians couldn’t
be tried in military courts when civil courts were available. The
Radicals were so angered by this decision that they introduced bills
in Congress that would have (1) abolished the Supreme Court’s
jurisdiction in all habeas corpus cases, (2) ended all judicial
review of acts of Congress, and (3) prohibited the high court from
reviewing cases that involved “political questions,”
including the Reconstruction Act. This was an open attack on basic
American concepts of government, justice, and due process. For example,
if the Supreme Court were denied jurisdiction in habeas corpus cases,
it would be unable to protect citizens against unlawful arrest and
imprisonment. That was exactly what the Radicals wanted. Forrest
McDonald observes,

That decision [Ex Parte McCardle] elicited the most outraged Radical
response yet. Three drastic bills were introduced in Congress: to
abolish the Court’s jurisdiction in all habeas corpus cases;
to abolish entirely judicial review of acts of Congress; and to
deny the Court power to review “political questions,”
including cases arising under the Reconstruction Act. Loud protests
against the measures were heard throughout the country, and none
was passed. Had they been enacted, the Court would have been destroyed
as an arbiter of the Constitution. (States’ Rights and the
Union, p. 218)

Gideon Welles, a cabinet member under both Lincoln and Johnson,
viewed the Radicals with disdain and distrust.

“Hate, revenge, and persecution enter largely into their
composition,” wrote Gideon Welles. “These fanatics want
a God to punish, not to love, those who do not agree with them”.
. . .

Four fifths of the radicals, he wrote, “are small party men
. . . without any knowledge of the science of government or of our
Constitution. With them all, the great, overpowering purpose and
aim are office and patronage. Most of their legislation relates
to office and their highest conception of legislative duty has in
view place and how to get it”. . . .

“These Radical patriots are swindling the country while imposing
on its credulity,” wrote Welles. “The granting of acts
of incorporation, bounties, special privileges, favors, and profligate
legislation of every description is shocking.” (Stampp in
Grob and Billias, editors, Interpretations of American History,
Volume 2, pp. 58-59, 60)

I’m not arguing that all the Radicals were corrupt or that
everything they believed was wrong. Although I share the view that
many of the Radicals were more interested in power than in civil
rights, I also believe that some of them were sincere. The Radicals
deserve credit for eventually forcing Lincoln to provide equal pay
for black Union soldiers during the war and for trying to provide
food, clothing, and income for former slaves after the war. For
the most part, the Radicals’ positions on civil rights issues
were commendable, enlightened, and moral. However, in many cases
the Radicals used ruthless, illegal, and unethical methods to achieve
their civil rights objectives, and some of their other objectives
were dishonorable.

In a very real sense, the Civil War was not North vs. South; rather,
it was hardline Republican leaders and certain Northern business
interests vs. the rest of the country. Although the vast majority
of Southerners supported the Confederacy, at least 40 percent of
Northerners did not support the Republicans and wanted to halt or
even abandon the federal invasion of the South. Before the war,
dozens of Northern newspapers voiced the view that the South should
be allowed to depart in peace. During the war, so many Northern
citizens opposed Lincoln’s policies that the Republicans had
to impose military rule on large areas of the North.

A good indication of Lincoln’s significant lack of Northern
support can be seen in the results of the 1864 presidential election.
Amazingly, Lincoln’s opponent in that election, former Union
general George McClellan, received 41 percent of the vote, even
though by then it was clear the North was going to win the war,
even though the Republicans engaged in questionable polling-place
tactics in certain areas, and even though the Republicans had muzzled
criticism of the war in much of the Northern press.

At just about any point in the war, it’s probable that a
majority of Americans opposed the use of force to hold the Union
together. If Southern citizens had voted even in the 1864 election,
McClellan may very well have received a majority of the popular
vote, especially if the election had been conducted fairly. If the
election had been held in 1862 and had included Southern citizens,
Lincoln almost certainly would have lost the popular vote in a landslide.
If Northern citizens had known in advance what Lincoln was going
to do in response to secession, it’s unlikely that he would
have been elected in the first place. It should be remembered that
when Lincoln won the 1860 election, he only received 39.9 percent
of the popular vote. The conservative vote was split between three
candidates, Stephen Douglas, John Breckinridge, and John Bell, each
of whom, incidentally, later voiced opposition to using force to
maintain the Union. Lincoln received about 1.9 million votes, while
Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell received about 2.8 million votes.
However, Lincoln won the election because 122 of the 152 Electoral
College votes that he needed for victory were concentrated in just
six Northern states.

One of the many untold stories of the Civil War is the fact that
Indians, Hispanics, and African Americans supported and even fought
for the Confederacy. The five tribes of the Indian Territory supported
the Confederacy and contributed troops to the Confederate army.
One Confederate general was a Cherokee Indian and was one of the
last flag officers to surrender his troops at the end of the war.

Thousands of Hispanics served as soldiers in the Confederate army,
and some even served as commissioned officers. In his book Hispanic
Confederates (Clearfield Company, 1999), John O’Donnell-Rosales
identifies 3,600 Hispanic Confederate soldiers by name and unit.
The Confederate commissioner to northern Mexico was a Cuban named
José Agustín Quintero. Hispanic American Santos Benavides
commanded the Confederate 33rd Texas Cavalry, the Mexican-American
unit that defeated Union forces in the 1864 Battle of Laredo. Santiago
Vidaurri, the governor of the Mexican border states of Coahuila
and Nuevo León, offered to have northern Mexico secede and
join the Confederacy, but Jefferson Davis declined the offer because
he was afraid Lincoln would then blockade Mexican ports.

There is evidence that thousands of African Americans fought for
the Confederacy. For example, the chief inspector of the U.S. Sanitary
Commission, Dr. Lewis Steiner, reported that he saw about 3,000
well-armed black Confederate soldiers in Stonewall Jackson’s
army and that those soldiers were "manifestly an integral portion
of the Southern Confederate Army." In a Union army battle report,
a “General D. Stuart” complained about the deadly effectiveness
of the black Confederate soldiers whom his troops had encountered.
Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest had slaves and free blacks
serving in units under his command, and said of them, “These
boys stayed with me . . . and better Confederates did not live.”
After the Battle of Gettysburg, Union forces took seven black Confederate
soldiers as prisoners, as was noted in a Northern newspaper at the
time, which said, “. . . reported among the rebel prisoners
were seven blacks in Confederate uniforms fully armed as soldiers.”
None other than African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass
complained that there were “many” blacks in the Confederate
army who were armed and “ready to shoot down” Union
soldiers. During the Battle of Chickamauga, slaves serving Confederate
soldiers armed themselves and asked permission to join the fight—and
when they received that permission they fought commendably. Their
commander, Captain J. B. Briggs, later noted that these men “filled
a portion of the line of advance as well as any company of the regiment.”
There are numerous accounts of slaves assisting Confederate soldiers
in battle and helping them to escape capture afterward (see, for
example, Francis Springer, War for What?, Springfield, Tennessee:
Nippert Publishing Company, 1990, pp. 172-183). After the war, hundreds
of African Americans received Confederate veterans’ pensions.
Photos of reunions of Confederate veterans show African Americans
in attendance. As strange as it may seem to most people in our day,
many Southern slaves and free blacks felt loyalty to the South and
viewed Union troops as invaders. Says Cisco,

Down in Charleston, free blacks . . . declared that “our
allegiance is due to South Carolina and in her defense, we will
offer up our lives, and all that is dear to us.” Even slaves
routinely expressed loyalty to their homeland, thousands serving
the Confederate Army faithfully. (Taking A Stand, p. 112)

In the July 1919 issue of The Journal of Negro History, Charles
S. Wesley discussed the issue of blacks in the Confederate army:

The loyalty of the slave in guarding home and family during his
master’s absence has long been eloquently orated. The Negroes’
loyalty extended itself even to service in the Confederate army.
Believing their land invaded by hostile foes, slaves eagerly offered
themselves for service in actual warfare. . . .

At the outbreak of the war, an observer in Charleston noted the
war-time preparations and called particular attention to “the
thousand Negroes who, so far from inclining to insurrections, were
grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of shooting the Yankees.”
In the same city, one of the daily papers stated in early January
that 150 free colored men had offered their services to the Confederate
Government, and at Memphis a recruiting office was opened. In June
1861 the Legislature of Tennessee authorized Governor Harris to
receive into the state military service all male persons of color
between the ages of fifteen and fifty and to provide them with eight
dollars a month, clothing, and rations. . . . In the same state,
under the command of Confederate officers, marched a procession
of several hundred colored men carrying shovels, axes, and blankets.
The observer adds, “they were brimful of patriotism, shouting
for Jeff Davis and singing war songs.” A paper in Lynchburg,
Virginia, commenting on the enlistment of seventy free Negroes to
fight for the defense of the State, concluded with “three
cheers for the patriotic Negroes of Lynchburg.”

Two weeks after the firing on Fort Sumter, several companies of
volunteers of color passed through Augusta, Georgia, on their way
to Virginia to engage in actual war. . . . In November of the same
year, a military review was held in New Orleans, where twenty-eight
thousand troops passed before Governor Moore, General Lowell, and
General Ruggles. The line of march extended beyond seven miles and
included one regiment comprised of 1,400 free colored men. (In J.
H. Segars and Charles Kelly Barrow, editors, Black Southerners in
Confederate Armies: A Collection of Historical Accounts, Atlanta,
Georgia: Southern Lion Books, 2001, pp. 2-4)

Civil War author Francis Springer noted two other accounts of free
blacks showing support for the Confederacy:

The Petersburg Daily Express of April 26, 1861, had it that 300
free Negroes about to leave the city to work on fortifications,
assembled at the courthouse to hear a speech by ex-mayor John Dodson.
Charles Tinsley, one of the free Negroes, said, “We are willing
to aid Virginia’s cause to the utmost extent of our ability.”
He stepped forward to receive the Confederate flag, stating, “I
could feel no greater pride, no more genuine gratification than
to plant this flag on Fortress Monroe.” Other work crews marched
through the city, singing, headed for the fortifications, according
to reports of the times. The Charleston Evening News said that about
125 free Negroes arrived in Petersburg, uniformed in red shirts
and dark pants, all in fine spirits and carrying the flag of the
Confederacy on their way to work in fortifications around Norfolk.
(War for What?, p. 86)

Springer also discussed an incident in which a group of slaves
who had been forced to serve in the Union army volunteered to fight
for the Confederacy after they were captured by Confederate forces:

Some Union Negro troops, captured by General Forrest on his last
Tennessee raid, had been put to work on some fortifications in Mobile
Bay. On an inspection tour, General Richard Taylor complimented
them on their work, whereupon one of their leading members said,
“Give us some guns, Marse General, and we’ll fight for
you too. We’d rather fight for our own white folks than for
strangers.” Evidently they were Southern Negroes who had been
impressed [forced] into service on the Union side. (War for What?,
p. 106)

As mentioned earlier, there are many accounts of slaves coming
to the aid of Confederate soldiers during and after combat. Perhaps
this is an indication that Confederate officers usually tried to
properly care for the slaves who were working in their units. General
Braxton Bragg, commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, issued
a written order that “All employees of this army, black as
well as white, shall receive the same rations, quarters, and medical
treatment.” In late April 1862, General John B. Magruder of
the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia learned that Secretary
of War George Randolph had received complaints about how slaves
were being treated in his unit. Magruder wrote to Randolph to assure
him that his unit was doing all it could to properly care for its
slaves. We should pause to note two things here: One, that apparently
some Confederate citizens took the time to raise concerns about
the treatment of the slaves in Magruder’s army. And, two,
that Magruder felt he needed to respond to the complaints by writing
a letter to the secretary of war himself. In his letter, Magruder
said the following:

Sir, I have learned that complaints have been made to you of the
treatment of the slaves employed in this army.

It is quite true that much hardship has been endured by the negroes
in the recent prosecution of the defensive works on our lines; but
this has been unavoidable, owing to the constant and long-continued
wet weather. Every precaution has been adopted to secure their health
and safety as far as circumstances would allow. The soldiers, however,
have been more exposed and have suffered far more than the slaves.
The latter [the slaves] have always slept under cover and have had
fires to make them comfortable, while the men have been working
in the rain, have stood in the trenches and rifle pits in mud and
water almost knee-deep, without shelter, fire, or sufficient food.
There has been sickness among the soldiers and the slaves, but far
more among the former than the latter. (Letter from General John
B. Magruder to Secretary of War George Randolph, April 29, 1862,
in Segars and Barrow, Black Southerners in Confederate Armies, p.

Another untold story of the Civil War is the brutal way that many
Union forces treated Southern slaves. One Union unit, commanded
by Colonel John Turchin, moved into Athens, Georgia, and, with Turchin’s
approval, spent weeks in the slave huts “debauching the females.”
Turchin’s superior officers court-martialed and convicted
him for his crimes. (Amazingly, Lincoln later promoted Turchin to
brigadier general.) In another case, a Union colonel, Ignatz Kappner,
reported that Union troops “broke en masse in the camps of
the colored women and are committing all sorts of outrage.”
In some cases, Union soldiers would torture and even kill slaves
who would not reveal the location of their masters’ valuables.
Union soldiers usually viewed captured or runaway slaves as “contrabands”
and often mistreated them. Says McPherson,

While northern soldiers had no love for slavery, most of them had
no love for slaves either. . . . While some Yanks treated contrabands
with a degree of equity and benevolence, the more typical response
was indifference, contempt, and cruelty. Soon after Union forces
captured Port Royal, South Carolina, in November 1861, a private
described an incident there that made him “ashamed of America”:
“About 8-10 soldiers from the New York 47th chased some Negro
women but they escaped, so they took a Negro girl about 7-9 years
old, and raped her.” From Virginia a Connecticut soldier wrote
that some men of his regiment had taken “two Nigger wenches
[women] . . . turned them upon their heads, and put tobacco, chips,
sticks, lighted cigars and sand into their behinds.” Even
when Billy Yank welcomed the contrabands, he often did so from utilitarian
rather than humanitarian motives. “Officers and men are having
an easy time,” wrote a Maine soldier from occupied Louisiana
in 1862. “We have Negroes to do all fatigue work, cooking
and washing clothes." (The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 497, emphasis

The case of the Union army’s treatment of the slaves in Bisland,
Louisiana, is another example of federal mistreatment of Southern
slaves. When Union forces occupied the area around Bisland, they
caused the deaths of numerous slaves and left hundreds of others
in terrible condition. When Confederate forces recaptured the area,
they found shallow graves where slaves had been hastily buried.
They found a local sugar house filled with dead and dying slaves.
In one location the roads were lined with slaves who were half-starved,
sick, and unable to care for themselves. Upon seeing the plight
of the Bisland slaves, the Confederate troops provided them with
food, medicine, and transportation, saving hundreds of them from
certain death (James and Walter Kennedy, The South Was Right!, Second
Edition, Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, 1994, pp.
143-144; David Edmonds, editor, The Conduct of Federal Troops in
Louisiana, Lafayette, Louisiana: The Acadiana Press, 1988, pp. 116-119).

Textbooks note that well over 100,000 slaves served in the Union
army, but they rarely inform the reader that thousands of those
men were forced to serve. Union army records and other sources document
that thousands of slaves were abducted and then forced into military
service; some were taken from their plantations during Union raids,
while others were seized in areas that were occupied by federal
forces. General John Logan told General Grant, “A major of
colored troops is here capturing negroes, with or without their
consent.” General Lovell Rousseau informed General G. H. Thomas
that “officers in command of colored troops are in constant
habit of pressing [i.e., forcing] all able-bodied slaves into the
military service of the U.S.” Even in the Union slave state
of Kentucky, federal gunboats raided plantations, “carrying
off slaves to help build military railroads, fortifications, and
wagon roads” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation,
p. 161). In May 1862, federal troops in South Carolina forcefully
rounded up hundreds of slaves in compliance with General David Hunter’s
order to raise two regiments of black troops from slaves (or “contrabands”)
in his region. Edward Pierce, a special agent with the U.S. Department
of the Treasury in Port Royal, South Carolina, described one conscription
scene in a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase dated
May 12, 1862:

The scenes of today . . . have been distressing. . . . Some 500
men were hurried . . . from Ladies and Saint Helena to Beaufort
. . . and then carried to Hilton Head. . . . The negroes were sad.
. . . The superintendents . . . aided the military in the disagreeable
affair, disavowing the act. Sometimes whole plantations, learning
what was going on, ran off into the woods for refuge. Others, with
no means of escape, submitted passively to the inevitable decree.
. . . (In Keys, The Uncivil War, p. 21)

The next day Pierce wrote to General Hunter to tell him about the
consequences of his order. He said slaves were taken suddenly and
weren’t allowed to go home before leaving. He added that some
of the slaves wailed and screamed and that others fled into the
woods but were pursued by soldiers:

The colored people became suspicious of the presence of the companies
of soldiers detailed for the service. . . . They were taken from
the fields without being allowed to go to their homes even to get
a jacket. . . . There was sadness in all. As those on this plantation
were called in from the fields, the soldiers, under orders, and
while on the steps of my headquarters, loaded their guns, so that
the negroes might see what would take place in case they attempted
to get away. . . .

On some plantations the wailing and screaming were loud and the
women threw themselves in despair on the ground. On some plantations
the people took to the woods and were hunted up by the soldiers.
(In Keys, The Uncivil War, pp. 21-22)

The conscription of slaves by federal forces continued even after
the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. For example, several months
after the proclamation was issued, General Innis Palmer wanted to
provide “laborers” for federal troops at Fort Monroe.
He informed his superior on September 1, 1864, that even though
he was having trouble “collecting the colored men” for
this purpose, he had already sent 221 of them and was expecting
to get “a large lot” the next day:

. . . the negroes will not go voluntarily, so I am obliged to force
them. I have sent seventy-one and will send this afternoon about
150. I expect to get a large lot tomorrow. . . The matter of collecting
the colored men for laborers has been one of some difficulty, but
I hope to send up a respectable force. . . . They will not go willingly.
. . . They must be forced to go. . . . I am aware that this may
be considered a harsh measure, but . . . we must not stop at trifles.
(In Keys, The Uncivil War, p. 106)

Southern family journals and letters contain numerous accounts
of Union soldiers forcefully removing slaves from their homes, even
when the slaves made it clear they didn’t want to leave (see,
for example, Henry Steele Commager, editor, The Civil War Archive:
The History of the Civil War in Documents, New York: Black Dog and
Leventhal Publishers, 2000, pp. 333-336, 675-677).

I’m not suggesting that all slaves remained loyal to their
masters or to the South during the war. Many thousands of Southern
slaves did in fact flock to Union lines, just as thousands of colonial
slaves flocked to British lines during the Revolutionary War. But
many Southern slaves remained loyal, and quite of few of them viewed
Union troops as invaders.

What If the South Had Been Allowed to Go in Peace?

Did the world end when America became a separate country from England?
No, and not only have America and England long been staunch allies
and close trading partners, but their peoples continue to share
many friendships and family relationships. Norway seceded from Sweden,
without a war, and the two countries still enjoy friendly relations.
Although I don’t advocate modern secession, and although I’m
proud of the many good things that America has done, I don’t
think it would have been the end of the world if the South had been
allowed to go in peace.

I think both the U.S.A. and the C.S.A. would have flourished. Interchange
between the states of the two nations would have continued almost
exactly as before. If anything, the presence of a prosperous low-tax,
limited-government Southern confederacy would have been a powerful
incentive for the federal government to limit taxes and to adhere
more closely to the limitations imposed on it by the Constitution.

Some critics have suggested that if the Confederacy had survived,
World War II may have had a different outcome. But the fact that
England and America separated didn’t prevent them from later
joining forces to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World
War II. The U.S. and the Confederacy certainly would have teamed
up to do the same thing.

If the South had been permitted to go in peace, slavery would have
died a natural death in a matter of a few decades, if not sooner.
Before the war, even some Northern politicians, such as William
Seward, said slavery was a dying institution. The percentage of
Southern whites that belonged to slaveholding families dropped by
5 percent from 1850-1860 (Divine et al, editor, America Past and
Present, p. 389). Historian Allan Nevins noted that by the 1850s
"slavery was dying all around the edges of its domain"
(The Emergence of Lincoln, Volume 2, p. 469). Although slavery was
still economically profitable, its days were numbered. Interestingly,
some of the most vocal Northern abolitionists, including Wendell
Phillips, welcomed the South’s secession because they believed
Southern slavery would die out more quickly if the South were no
longer part of the Union.

If the South had been allowed to leave in peace, over 600,000 soldiers
(over half of them from the North) would have been spared death.
Over 50,000 Southern civilians likewise would have been spared death.
Hundreds of thousands of soldiers would not have been wounded for
life. Millions of families would have been spared sorrow and anguish
over their dead and wounded loved ones. Billions of dollars in property
damage would have been avoided. And, race relations would not have
suffered the poisoning that they experienced during and after the

“But,” some will ask, “wouldn’t the Union
have been destroyed if the Confederacy had survived?” This
was one of Lincoln’s erroneous arguments. The Union would
not have been “destroyed” if the South had been allowed
to leave in peace. The Union still would have had 23 states, compared
to the Confederacy’s 11 states, and it would have retained
control over the vast western territories. The Union’s population
was more than twice the size of the Confederacy’s. In addition,
the Union had nine times more factories than the Confederacy, twenty
times more pig iron, seventeen times more textiles, two and a half
times more miles of railroad tracks, thirty-two times more firearms,
and nine times more production value. The Union still would have
been one of the largest and most powerful countries on the earth
even without the eleven states of the Confederacy. So the Union
would have been just fine if the Republicans had allowed the South
to go in peace. (Of course, if the two nations had lived in peace,
the Union would have needed to lower its tariff in order to compete
with the low Confederate tariff, but that could have been done in
a matter of days by the U.S. Congress.)

What would the South be like today if the Confederacy had survived?
No one can say with certainty, but it’s likely that taxes
of all kinds would be much lower. Citizens would have much less
government interference in their lives. Parents would have more
control over their children’s education and over their local
schools. Southern schools would most likely allow voluntary prayer,
moral instruction, nativity plays at Christmas time, and formal
Bible reading (as our schools used to do until the 1960s when the
Supreme Court suddenly decided these things were somehow “unconstitutional”).
There would be tough anti-pornography laws. The lives of unborn
children would be protected by law. There would be no question that
marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman. And a state government
could place a Ten Commandments monument in front of a state judicial
building without having to worry about a federal judge wrongfully
ordering its removal.

However, all this being said, I think that if the South had been
allowed to go in peace, it would have eventually rejoined the Union.
But, if not, I don’t think it would have been the end of the
world if the South had remained independent. England and America
have managed to do very well as separate nations. So have Norway
and Sweden. I think the Confederacy and the United States could
have done the same thing.

Final Thoughts

Some people think it is unpatriotic or divisive to defend the Southern
side of the Civil War. As a retired U.S. Army veteran and a flag-waving
patriot, I reject that view. Confederate citizens were Americans
too. They were citizens of the “Confederate States of America.”
Their heroes included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick
Henry, George Mason, Davy Crockett, and Andrew Jackson. The official
Confederate seal featured the image of George Washington on his
horse. The Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, was a former
U.S. Army officer, a genuine hero in the Mexican War, an outstanding
U.S. secretary of war, and a highly respected member of the U.S.
Senate. Dozens of other Confederate officials had likewise served
faithfully in the U.S. government. One of the members of the Confederate
Congress was former U.S. president John Tyler.

It is time for the demonization and smearing of the Confederacy
to stop. Compared with other nations of its day, the Confederacy
was one of the most democratic countries in the world. Even during
the war, the Confederacy held elections and had a vibrant free press.
In fact, on balance, the Confederacy was more democratic than some
nations in our day. Confederate citizens enjoyed every right that
we now enjoy, if not more. The Confederacy sought peace with the
federal government and only fought because it was invaded. The Confederate
Constitution was patterned after the U.S. Constitution and contained
improvements that even some Northern commentators acknowledged were

Yes, the Confederacy permitted slavery, but it left the door open
for the admission of free states and for the abolition of slavery
at the state level. Let’s keep in mind, too, that the American
colonies permitted slavery for decades, that the United States permitted
slavery for over half a century, that several Northern states made
huge fortunes from the slave trade, and that many of our founding
fathers were slaveholders, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,
Patrick Henry, James Madison, John Rutledge, George Mason, and Benjamin
Franklin. Let’s also keep in mind that most Confederate citizens
did not own slaves, and that by 1864 key Confederate leaders were
prepared to abolish slavery.

I agree with the sentiments that former Confederate army officer
Robert Catlett Cave expressed in 1911:

Does the propriety of discussing the causes of the War Between
the States belong exclusively to Northern writers and speakers?
Did the South, when she laid down her arms, surrender the right
to state in self-justification her reasons for taking them up? If
not, I fail to see how it can be improper, when perpetuating the
memory of the Confederate dead, at least to attempt to correct false
and injurious representations of their aims and deeds and to hand
down their achievements to posterity as worthy of honorable remembrance.
(The Men in Gray, pp. 11-12)