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May 13, 2004

Abolition & The Civil War

denBeste discusses Abolition as a proximate cause for the Civil War and others follow. I disagree and I think it is notable that this kind of disagreement is present today. As I am one of the few who have championed our current war in Iraq on the grounds of Empire, Humanitarian Rescue and Universal Suffrage most people would argue that it was about Oil or Weapons of Mass Destruction. Likewise there were many factions in the runup to the Civil War who were pursuing their own political agendas, few of whom had the true liberation of the African specifically in mind.

I've only mentioned this topic briefly here in Cobb, however I talked about this at length on Abuzz several years ago. A transcript is here. Download file

Some key excerpts: (from the Archives - Sept, 2000)

the abolitionist movement in the main did not possess the political power in the american congress during the lincoln presidency to force the north into armed conflict with the south on principle. abolitionist leaders in the congress like charles sumner were *reactive* as opposed to proactive with regard to militia actions in the western territories.

preservation of the union was the primary official motive of getting into war. but already guerrila fighting had begun precisely over the matter of slavery in the western territories.

john brown was the spearhead of the militant abolitionists, but he had great problems influencing the rest. in brown's thinking, a war was inevitable and he was bent on escalating the conflict, on the terms of equality under god, a far more radical position than that officilly stated (early or late) on emancipation.

so if you would like to believe that *the* moral motivation for the federalists was the negro question, then you would have to show john brown as the leader of that movement. clearly, brown had no federal sponsors.

i think the crux of this question can be answered by evaluating the positions in the congress of the matters of the two revolutionaries most militantly opposed to the general oppression of the african. and those two are nat turner and john brown. in the end i think you will find that the north was NOT escalating the wars started by those two, but fighting their own war for separate purposes.

lincoln defended the principle of human rights for the african, but that fell far short of civil rights. one could argue that some segment of the african population in the south enjoyed human rights prior to the war. it's rather like newt gingrich attacking bill clinton on the question of marital fidelity.

Key in understanding the willingness of the North to ignore the fundamental questions of the African's rights in the US at the time are embodied in Henry Clay's Missouri Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Act.

I was particularly interested, at the time, in the question of migration and why it was that the West did not have many ex-slaves.

i am starting to believe that it was the control of the west which was the prime factor in the civil war. the litmus issue was slave or free as if those were the two parties of congress.

i've never really followed this part of history very closely. my primary concern, as i've ranted, was to find a thread back through american history which took the same principled position on equality for the african. and mostly i've spent time debunking lincoln on that score, as well as illustrating the differences between douglass and garrison. also john brown and sojourner truth are touchpoints. (actually the more i reflect, the more i realize i've talked about this period - still i don't like to get bogged down on the subject of slavery)

so i look at the abolitionists as a loud minority a few of which do truly have their heads on straight re: equality. they can't force the issue to the point of armed conflict. and only one or two of them is taking the battle to the streets (of kansas).

the fact that blacks were never promised any federal protection or homesteading rights in the west proves to me that the primary question of slavery for the union was not liberation but economic control. nevertheless, abolitionists were indeed making most of the proper noises.

I also noted the origins of the Klan:

as for the motivations of individual soldiers, i would look to the guerrilla fighters who were involved in violent conflict before the war.

now project something backwards and that is the fact that during its height, the kkk claimed many millions of members. but the origins of the klan and its methods of terror are found in the person of william quantrill.

why, before there was even a declared civil war, would men who did not own slaves, who in fact were very poor, go on raids to terrorize the 'free soilers'? this is part of the complex psychology of white supremacy and the southern culture. it is not as simple as defending slaves you have, but defending the honor of slave holders and that way of life. (which essentially guaranteed even the poorest most illiterate whites of always having someone they can kick around)

Fascinating stuff.

Finally, I'd like to add a couple references as regards neo-confederates. I have a section here as part of my Race Man's Home Companion. Further, Silver Rights deals some body blows.

Posted by mbowen at May 13, 2004 12:24 AM

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Learn about the civil war from two bloggers from JohnHays.net
Stephen den Beste has a post about his opinion about what caused the Civil War. Cobb disagrees and has a post explaining his views. Both posts will add to anybody's knowledge about the causes for the Civil War.... [Read More]

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