|View single post by barrydancer|
|Posted: Thu Apr 9th, 2009 08:15 pm||
I'm going to have to chome in agreement with Doc C. As one of my friends once said, there's not a cause for war you can mention that, when scratched, doesn't reveal slavery under the surface. Tarrif, states' rights, territorial expansion, etc.
I think it's a fallacy (is that the word I want) to assume that, because the majority of Southerners did not own slaves, that they had no stake in the perpetuation of the system. It was the basis of the Southern economy and racial slavery was one the key compnents of suthern society. There's a reason why Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens declared in March 1861 that the new confederacy's "foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth." Strangely, Stephens then spent his post-war years claiming that slavery had nothing to do with secession!
Stephens wasn't alone, a number of political and social leaders expressed similar views during the secession crisis and founding of the Confederacy. Look at the secession ordinances of the Southern states. It's no coincindence that federal interference in slave matters is at the top of all their lists of grievances. Perhaps most convincing is the words of the secession commissioners, the men sent out by South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, etc., to sell secession to their fellow Southerners. They weren't preaching about grand constitutional principles. They were whipping up fears that Lincoln and the Northerners were going to free all the slaves, and let them marry and rape all your wives and daughters. (Charles B. Dew's Apostles of Disunion is one the best works of history I've read, and presents the secession commissioners in their own words.) Many other figures' post-war pronouncements of how slavery was irrelevant to the conflict, as one poster in another thread here mentioned, don't hold water when compared to their antebellum views and statements.
The people of the time had no problem in telling anyone who would listen why they were doing what they were doing. It was only after the war, when the South lost and the historys began to be written, that slavery's role in the conflict was pushed to the rear.
That doesn't mean that the common soldier was fighting to directly ensure slavery's survival, he likely had a whole host of reasons of his own, but indirectly, he surely was.
Sorry to go on a seeming rant. The subject is one of my interests. But Susan probably summed it up nicely above with the McPherson quote.