Facts About Slavery And The War For Southern Independence
No other place of origin evokes such strong reactions and prejudices
as the word “Southern”. It is all the more amazing when
one considers the manner in which the early Republic was shaped
and dominated by Southerners. Jefferson was the intellectual and
spiritual architect of the Declaration and as the third President
acquired the vast Louisiana Territory staking an early claim as
far as the Pacific. Washington’s feats after he defeated the
British at Yorktown include the first two terms as President, declining
a third and an offer to be “King”. James Madison and
Patrick Henry crafted a Constitution which has proved the most enduring
and practical political document in the world. In fact, five of
our first seven Presidents were Southern and it was James Knox Polk
in the 1840’s who assured the U.S. would be a permanent transcontinental
It is not only ironic but forgotten that it was once
New England that suffered from the inferiority complex when compared
to the feats of these Southern giants. The hinge upon which this
extraordinary about-face occurred was the epic known now by the
misnomer the “Civil War” and the events which preceded.
That terrible conflict, much distorted by both traditional history
and more recently the revisionist variety, holds the unfulfilled
promise of our national destiny. We currently lack the will and
the courage to learn its great truths, banish its dark lies, probe
its obscured origins and confront its painful legacies. These
myths and distortions must be replaced with historical facts if
we desire the ultimate goal of national reconciliation. These
1) The slave trade prospered in West Africa 40 years before Columbus
even discovered America. African tribes actually conducted raids
on their neighbors for the express purpose of enslaving them.
Tragically, slavery is practiced to this very day in places like
the Sudan, Zaire and Nigeria.
2) Five European powers (Spain, Portugal, France, Holland and
Britain) competing for New World influence all employed slavery,
with Brazil (Portugal’s crown jewel) topping the list at
5.5 million slaves, half of the total brought to the New World.
By 1860, their numbers had dwindled to a little over 2 million.
3) Only 6% of Africans reached our shores (about 600,000). By
1860 their numbers had increased (without new importations) to
almost 4 million, the only slave population in recorded history
to increase in captivity. Indigent Anglo-Celts filled the need
for slaves (as indentured servants) in our early history by selling
themselves into slavery because they could not afford the cost
of passage. Most white Southerners are descendants of these early
4) Slavery was practiced in all thirteen colonies and NY was
second to SC in 1776 as the colony with the highest percentage
of slaves. Sojourner Truth was born Harriet Van Wagner, a slave
in New York.
5) The liberal guilt, which today besets the North, has at its
roots the profits from its vast slave trading which did nothing
less than finance the Industrial Revolution. At the Constitutional
Convention a continuation of the slave trade was a concession
wrung by the Northern delegations from the South which allowed
the North to continue the international trade another 20 years,
6) New England slave ships continued plying the waters in defiance
of the ban thereafter providing millions of slaves to French and
Spanish sugar plantations in the Caribbean and South America.
7) The 1860 census reveals 95% of America’s slaves were
owned by just 5% of the population while 85% of Southerners owned
the land and structures they lived upon. This clearly establishes
a large, independent non slave-holding class of yeoman farmers
who later became the rank and file as well as the heart and soul
of the Confederate army. To state their motive for fighting was
the preservation of slavery is pure nonsense.
8) Secession as a doctrine was asserted by both North and South
(Massachusetts threatened to secede on three separate occasions).
The abolitionists had also advocated secession. It was only after
1830 when the control of national politics by the North became
permanent that secession became associated exclusively with the
South. As a nation conceived in secession and built upon the principle
that government is contingent on the consent of the governed the
South, or any other section of the country for that matter was
completely within principle to assert the right.
9) Slavery was an inefficient, self-consuming labor system driven
by cotton and already well-contained within its own soon to be
encountered natural frontiers (the American desert). It required
ever newer lands to replace that which it exhausted. The pattern
was identical throughout the entire Western Hemisphere. It was
doomed for extinction well before the end of the century if left
10) Support for war among the general population North and South
was weak prior to Sumter. The original seceding states contained
only 30% of the Southern population. Four southern states subsequently
voted down one ordinance of secession, four others would remain
within the Union fold throughout the war. Northern war fever was
equally tepid. The manipulation of Ft. Sumter by Seward and Lincoln
which resulted in hostile fire polarized the vast middle and guaranteed
a long and bloody conflict.
11) The war was unconstitutional and the closing of over 300
Northern newspapers and suspension of habeas corpus that jailed
13,000 Northern civilians (including elected officials) is without
parallel in our entire history! The Lincoln Administration repeatedly
violated amendments 1, 4,5,6,8, 9 and 10. By contrast Jefferson
Davis closed not one paper nor jailed one citizen.
12) Warfare against citizens had ceased in Europe and a conduct
of war eventually known as the “Geneva Conventions”
codified in Europe during the 1860s forbade war against civilian
centers. Contrary to this great humanitarian trend when it became
apparent the Confederate armies could not be subdued in the field
war was commenced against civilians. The depredations of Sherman
in Georgia and the Carolinas as well as Hunter’s and Sheridan’s
in Virginia mirror much witnessed in the recent Balkan war.
13) While the war is now represented as an altruistic crusade
by the North to free the slaves the historical facts could not
be more contradictory. The 1860 Republican Convention contained
a platform plank promising protection for slavery everywhere it
currently existed. Lincoln at his first inaugural address offered
a constitutional amendment forever protecting slavery. A Congressional
Resolution in 1862 reaffirmed the war’s aim was to “preserve
the Union, not free the slave”.
14) The Emancipation Proclamation was met in the North by laws
collectively known as “Black Codes”. These laws forbade
entry, travel, work or residence by African-Americans in Northern
states. The Proclamation was nothing but a clever ruse to stall
imminent European recognition of the Confederacy. It freed no
one. Slave states remaining in the Union (in the border states)
not only retained their slaves, but also benefited from the strictest
enforcement of the hated Fugitive Slave Law.
15) Blacks served willingly and honorably in the Confederate
armies. Estimates of their numbers run as high as 100,000. Their
motive was the same as their Federal counterpart; patriotism and
the desire to disprove the misconceptions about their race. They
fought no more to preserve slavery than to preserve Jim Crow during
the Spanish-American War, or the doctrine of separate but equal
16) The holocaust that resulted from the halt of the prisoner
exchange is the sole responsibility of Stanton (Lincoln’s
Secretary of War) and Grant. Its only design was to deprive the
Confederacy of manpower with the full knowledge scores of thousands
on both sides would perish. By the wars’ end, 30,000 on
each side had died in captivity. The largest mass grave in the
Western Hemisphere is located at Oakwood Cemetery in Chicago and
contains the remains of 4200 Confederate P.O.W.s.
17) Had the South prevailed Robt. E. Lee would have undoubtedly
been elected president (the Confederate Constitution limited the
President to one six year term) and just as undoubtedly have taken
immediate steps to free the slaves. This single act, proposed
as it would have been by President Lee would have been accepted
by the South and would have advanced race-relations light years.
18) As it was Reconstruction was the single most corrupt period
of our entire history, pitting newly enfranchised Blacks against
disenfranchised and occupied southern Whites. When in 1877 the
last of the troops and carpetbaggers left only Blacks remained
to face the rage and hatred of a humiliated South. The ugliness
of the 1960s can be traced unbroken from the 1860s.
19) Recent interpretations, Ken Burns The Civil War foremost
among them, while artfully crafted, serve only to perpetuate the
victor’s propaganda that lies at the root of the unresolved
By the beginning of the 20th century the wounds of that war had
finally begun to heal. Southerners embraced anew the Stars and
Stripes while Robert E Lee became a national, not just a regional
hero. Confederate Battle flags were returned to the restored states
and Southern pride in the old Confederacy was not considered inconsistent
with their fundamental American patriotism. Unfortunately South-bashing
has replaced the mutual respect of a century ago. In an age of
so-called tolerance there are no boundaries to the venom that
is daily heaped upon all things and persons Southern; our faith,
our heroes, our symbols and our history. It has reopened a rift
that may ultimately and ironically fuel a desire for independence
from a people who refuse to be homogenized or abused any further.
This much is certain, until we understand and teach the Civil
War truthfully the ink on the surrender documents signed in McLean’s
parlor will never dry.
past commander Camp Douglas 1507, Chicago, IL
Sons of Confederate Veterans