Roots of Secession: Slavery and Politics in Antebellum Virginia (Civil War America)
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Aug 10, Porter Broyles rated it it was amazing Shelves: antebellum , five-star-reviews. With that understanding, I started reading the book figuring it would either validate my interpretation of the events or refute them. This book is about one state, but a state which could have gone either waythus, I feel that understanding that state is very important to understanding the Civil War.
Virginia, more than any other state struggled with the issue of secession, so a case study is worth the read. The book was extremely interesting. It talked a lot about the history of the state of Virginia, although it only glossed over the debates in the early s about efforts to prohibit slavery in the state. The book provided interesting perspectives on the declining authority of slaver owner and slave independence in the s.
But how these practices diminished the reliance on slave ownersyou had to let slaves have some independence to work for wages. At the same time the number of crimes committed by blacks increased significantly. The author talks about the different types of crimes and how those crime affected the souther psyche. The book talks about the notion of the freed slave. We often have the misinterpretation that slaves when they escaped fled north.
More often they relocated to neighboring communities or hid out in the local country side. It discussed a fair amount of detail about the various laws that went into effect that affected escaped slaves or free black persons. How sometimes the local community supported freed persons, while in others it persecuted them. There was a very interesting section on dog ownership and slavery that anybody interested in dogs should read, but one of the most interesting revelations to me was the section dealing with former slaves who returned to slavery.
While a very small minority, there were apparently freed slaves who requested to be returned into the state of slavery. A lifestyles where they were more comfortable with having others make the decisions than they were themselves. It makes sense, but it was startling and unexpected. The book talks about John Brown and how he achieved martyr status in both the north and the South… that the south feared him and was almost unsure of how to handle his being captured. In so doing, they paved the way for the Pivotal decisions awaited about secession, the consequences of which would unfold for a hundred years and more.
But few Virginians wanted to decide at all. Instead, they talked, almost interminably. The remarkable Our catalog covers a wide variety of fields. Explore them by clicking on the categories below, and receive updates by signing up for their respective newsletters:. University of Virginia Press P.
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Edited by L. Diane Barnes Frederick Douglass was born enslaved in February , but from this most humble of beginnings, he rose to become a world-famous orator, newspaper editor, and champion of the rights of women and African Americans. Hilde In antebellum society, women were regarded as ideal nurses because of their sympathetic natures. Abraham Lincoln said the North fought to preserve the Union, and later, to end slavery.
Some can't accept such simple answers. Among them is Charles Adams. In When in the Course of Human Events , he argues that the war had nothing to do with slavery or union. Rather, it was entirely about tariffs, which the South hated.
The tariff not only drove up the price of the manufactured goods that agrarian Southerners bought, it invited other countries to enact their own levies on Southern cotton. In this telling, Lincoln, and the North, wanted more than anything to raise tariffs, both to support a public works agenda and to protect Northern goods from competition with imports. Openly partisan to the South, Adams believes that the Civil War truly was one of Northern aggression. He believes that the Southern states had the right to secede and he believes that the war's true legacy is the centralization of power in Washington and the deification of the "tyrant" Abraham Lincoln.
To this end, he collects all the damaging evidence he can find against Lincoln and the North. And he omits things that might tarnish his image of the South as a small-government wonderland.
Thus, we hear of Lincoln's use of federal troops to make sure that Maryland didn't secede. We don't learn that Confederate troops occupied eastern Tennessee to keep it from splitting from the rest of the state. Adams tells us of Union Gen. William Sherman's actions against civilians, which he persuasively argues were war crimes. But he doesn't tell us of Confederate troops capturing free blacks in Pennsylvania and sending them south to slavery.
Nor does he mention the Confederate policy of killing captured black Union soldiers. He tells us that Lincoln suspended habeas corpus; he doesn't mention that the Confederacy did also. Adams argues that Lincoln's call to maintain the Union was at root a call to keep tariff revenues coming in from Southern ports. Lincoln, he notes, had vowed repeatedly during the presidential campaign that he would act to limit the spread of slavery to the West, but he would not move to end it in the South.
Lincoln was firmly committed to an economic program of internal improvements—building infrastructure, in modern terms—that would be paid for through higher tariffs. When the first Southern states seceded just after Lincoln's election, Adams argues, it was to escape these higher taxes. Indeed, even before Lincoln took office, Congress—minus representatives from rebel Southern states—raised tariffs to an average of almost 47 percent, more than doubling the levy on most goods. Lincoln was determined to collect the tariff on goods flowing into Southern ports, even if locals dragged their heels on collections.
That's why the conflict began at South Carolina's Fort Sumter. If the Union kept Sumter, it could control shipping into the key port of Charleston.
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Regardless of Northern motives, however, Adams never offers a convincing argument for why the first Southern states left the Union. After all, tariffs were still moderate when they left. And if they'd stayed, their representatives in Congress likely could have blocked the higher tariffs. More to the point, what about slavery?
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Before and during the war, almost every Southern political leader explicitly said the Southern states seceded to protect slavery. In , in Savannah, Georgia, Stephens bluntly declared that slavery was "the immediate cause of the late rupture and the present revolution. The Confederacy, in contrast, had been "founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone 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 moral condition.
Well, Adams says in effect, Stephens was lying. Southern leaders knew that people couldn't be roused to fight over something so unappealing as tariffs. So they whipped up a fear that slavery was at stake. Indeed, Adams' thesis is a completely unsatisfying one. Even if true, he can't answer an important question: Given that most Southerners didn't own slaves, why was this a more attractive issue for raising fighting passions than tariffs? Why would so many die with "zeal" for a "noble" purpose from which they were excluded?
After all, less than one third of Southerners owned slaves. Manisha Sinha, a historian at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, shows how slavery did in fact became the rallying cry for the South. In The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina , Sinha traces the growth of Southern "nationalism"—that is, a sense of the South as a distinct region with a common culture and set of political priorities that were in conflict with the rest of the U.
At the heart of that nationalism was slavery.
Timeline of events leading to the American Civil War - Wikipedia
Earlier Southerners such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington had seen slavery as an evil, albeit one they could not or would not abolish. Their descendants, Sinha writes, articulated defenses of "slavery as a benevolent and harmonious system that allayed the conflict between capital and labor, as a guarantor of social and political stability, as the engine of economic prosperity, as a result of the allegedly natural racial differences, and as a divinely sanctioned institution.
This "Southern thought" was antagonistic to classical liberalism, capitalism, industrialism, and democracy.