Ludwig von Gress
My very good friend Sven of Sydney is sending me from to to time various information, mostly related to military matters. Though the American Civil War is not amongst the top of my interests, I have read a few books about it and the best, highly detailed military history, in my humble opinion is Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative (3 volumes), (1974), ISBN 978-0-394-74913-6. A long time ago, I grew out of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the images Sven sent got me thinking again.
The Civil War or the War for Southern Independences started in 1861 and ended four years later with the South surrender. It is a measure of the victor’s rewriting of the causes and of the narrative that the conflict between the states is mostly remembered as a civil war. A civil war is defined as a violent conflict between at least two political factions attempting to take over the same government. There can be no suggestion that the South wanted to take over the United States.
The institution of slavery was not the issue. In his inaugural address on 4th March, 1861 President Lincoln said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” South Carolina seceded first, in December 1860 and was shortly joined by another six states. On 11th March, 1861 those seven states adopted a constitution, which was closely patterned after the United States Constitution, but whereas the US Constitution begins: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…” , the Confederate Constitution starts: “We the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character…”
There were other differences. The tariffs were permitted but were not to favour particular industries. This was because of the practice of US government assisting Northern industries to the detriment of Southern agriculture. And the other difference from the US constitution was that the Confederate one specifically abolished the international slave trade…
Upon his inauguration President Lincoln quickly signed the law known as the Morrill Tariff, which increased tariffs on practically every imported and exported good from 15% to more than 37%, intended to rise to 47% within three years. However, as the secession and the subsequent war eliminated expected cash flow from Southern exports and imports, the nation’s first income tax had to be imposed.
In August 1861 General John C. Fremont ordered the slaves in his military district in Missouri be freed. Abraham Lincoln demanded rescission and when Fremont refused, sacked him. The emancipation proclamation was revoked and Missouri (a Union state) kept its slaves. In April 1862 another Union general, David Hunter, declared slaves in his district, Southern Carolina, Georgia and Florida “forever free”. Forever lasted only till Lincoln heard of it and revoked the order. He wrote that he would “only free the slaves if it became a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the government.” Lincoln’s celebrated Emancipation Proclamation related only to the slaves in areas held by Confederacy.
This may be surprising to those who did not read what Abraham Lincoln said in 1858: “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 or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
[More images with the victors’ politically correct commentary – Click here: The Civil War, Part 1: The Places – In Focus – The Atlantic ]