Thursday, March 1, 2007

A Universal Slavery?



Thats what Boston Abolitionist, American patriot and freedom-lover Lysander Spooner (1808 – 1887, pictured left) believed the American Civil War brought to America.


With one of my all time favorite quotes, Spooner put the Civil War and its aftermath into a proper and clear perspective; “On the part of the North, the war was carried on, not to liberate the slaves but by a government that had always perverted and violated the Constitution, to keep the slaves in bondage; and was willing to do so, if the slaveholders could thereby be induced to stay in the Union.


“The principle on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: that men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance on their part, makes them traitors and criminals.


“No principle that is possible to be named can be more self-evidently false than this, no more self-evidently fatal to liberty. Yet it triumphed on the battlefield and is now assumed to be established. If it really be established, then the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been really increased; for a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not want, is a slave. And there is no difference in principle – only in degree – between political and chattel slavery. The former, no less than the latter, denies a man's ownership of himself and the products of his labor.” (Lysander Spooner 1886)

The fact that the importation of slaves into America was outlawed in 1809, is a noble one that far too many Americans seem unaware of. Another little known fact is the legacy of black Confederates, despite the fact that there are now many books chronicling that fact.


In fact, “It has been estimated that over 65,000 Southern blacks were in the Confederate ranks. Over 13,000 of these “saw the elephant,” also known as meeting the enemy in combat. These black Confederates included both slave and free. The Confederate Congress did not approve blacks to be officially enlisted as soldiers (except as musicians), until late in the war.


“But in the ranks it was a different story. Many Confederate officers did not obey the mandates of politicians, they frequently enlisted blacks with a simple criteria, “Will you fight?”

“Historian Ervin Jordan explains that “bi-racial units” were frequently organized “by local Confederate and state militia Commanders in response to immediate threats in the form of union raids.” Dr. Leonard Hayes, an African-America professor at Southern University stated, “When you've eliminated the black Confederate soldier, you've eliminated the history of the South.”


As the war came to an end, the Confederacy took progressive measures to build back up its army. The creation of the Confederacy States Colored Troops, copied after the northern colored troops came too late to be successful. Had the Confederacy been successful it would have created the world's largest armies (at that time) consisting of black soldiers even larger than that of the North. This would have given the future of the Confederacy a vastly different appearance than what modern day racist or anti-Confederate Liberals conjecture.


“Not only did Jefferson Davis envision black Confederate veterans receiving bounty lands for their service, there would have been no future for slavery after the goal of 300,000 armed black CSA veterans came home after the war.”



The Civil War was not about slavery, in fact, to his shame, Abraham Lincoln made very clear that he would've accepted an accommodation with slavery had the South acquiesced on the primary issue o preserving the Union.


But the South felt its agrarian economy was being stifled by northeast banking interests and after James Buchana botched things, the die was cast and the Civil War was all but inevitable.


The South fought for the original Constitution (localized governance and State's Rights) and against a growing federal monolith. Even the Confederate General James Longstreet is reported to have said, “We should've freed the slaves and then fired on Fort Sumpter.”


And I say that knowing that many of my ancestors, on my father's side, came “off the boats” in Boston and New York and went right to war.


It was a necessary war and one that had to be fought. Lincoln was right that a divided nation would not last very long, but one of the casualties of that war was the original Constitution.

12 comments:

mal said...

You are half right on Lincoln and slavery being his issue, JMK.

He personally abhorred the practice having witnesed slave auctions during his youth.

His 'House divided" speech vs. Douglas was directly referring to the slave/free status of states dating back to the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

Lincoln, with the possible exception of FDR, was the savviest politician this country has ever had as chief executive. He knew that his election would be seen by the South as a challenge to their 'peculiar institution'. As such, he came up with his much ignored statement about what he would do to save the union which was indeed his primary concern in 1861. I have always believed that the statement was most reflective of a president whose major concern was opposing the dissollution of the USA by means he did not recognize as legal.

After the Emancipation Proclamation (which freed nobody), he met with senior Negro representatives in the WH and was stunned when they rejected his idea of the govt farming them to an island given that the whites would never accept them as equals and his personal view that nobody should have to deal with that inherent bias.

Amazing, huh?

Rob said...

The South fought for the original Constitution (localized governance and State's Rights) and against a growing federal monolith.

Bullshit, sir, or at least a half-truth -- for the Southern states were quite happy to use Federal laws when it suited their purpose of preserving slavery.

Prior to the Civil War, a number of Northern states had passed laws stating that fugitive slaves who managed to make it to Northern territory could not be lawfully seized by their former masters and dragged back to de Plantation.

And in the landmark Supreme Court case Prigg v. Pennsylvania, a Southern slaveowner successfully sued through the federal court for his right to recapture an escaped slave residing in an anti-slavery state -- thus using Federal power to trump another state's laws. (In this case, it was Maryland law vs. Pennsylvania law.)

JMK said...

Mal, I know Lincoln abhored slavery and his famous quote, I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master either," is a great one, BUT he made very clear that he'd accept an accomodation with the South over that already dying institution, so long as it preserved the Union.

Slave importation to America had been made illegal in 1809, so that institution wasn't going to last much longer anyway.

Lincoln had sent a General (Walker, I think) down to Nicaragua, to look into the possibility of the U.S. taking that country and moving the freed blacks there.

The terrible luck that Lincoln had was following James Buchanan, who lauded the Dred Scott Decision (which was handed down days after his inaugeration) as "the final word on slavery."

He fought to have an outsider's pro-slave Constitution ratified for Kansas, one that when set before the Kansans, they rejected outright.

Buchanan was a disaster and made most of the carnage that Lincoln had to preside over, inevitable.

JMK said...

A very poor example Rob!

EVERY adherant of "State's Rights" supported a federal government with (1) sole authority to commission a military, (2) sole authority to mint & coin money, (3) authority to adjudicate disputes via a federal court and (4) the authority to regulate inter-state commerce.

The last of those was the issue at stake in the Prigg case.

Today Conservatives (and many Republicans) still fight for each individual State's right to either accept or reject such things as the Death Penalty, gun control and abortion, while some folks wrongly claimed hypocrisy in some of the same people seeking relief throught the federal courts in the Schiavo case, claiming (1) it was NOT a "right to die" case, since the person in question (Terri Schindler) never made such an intention clear and (2) the questionable assigning "guardianship" status to a former husband who'd moved on and fathered a family with another woman.

Those two issues are issues that should be heard in a federal court, whether a state chooses to allow assisted suicide, etc., should be up to the voters of that state.

mal said...

From Lincon's letter to Horace Greeley on 8/22/63:


I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. [b]My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.[/b] If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

[b]I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty;[/b] and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.

Yours,
A. Lincoln.

This goes to my point abut Lincoln: he felt guilt about presiding over the breakup of the union. His views about slavery notwithstanding, he was a realist.

Lincoln recognized that the South's problems with the union was more than just slavery.

The South resented having to prop up the failing New England economy with their tax dollars.

They rejected the premise that the federal govt's views took priority over those of their states. States rights were to them supreme and no Southerner bought the argument that a United States government had the right to dictate to them.

Lincoln knew this as his comments indicated. The 'Father Abraham' of myth was created long after he passed away.

Had he lived, it would have been interesting to see how he would have dealt with the hard abolitionists such as Thaddeus Stevens as Lincoln was inclined to allow the Confederacy back on very generous terms. My guess is that Stevens would have sought impeachment as he did against Andrew Johnson who tried, ineffectively, to follow some of Lincoln's ideas.

JMK said...

I think that quote backs up what I said about him, though, that slavery WASN'T his primary concern, saving the Union was. Here, "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that, he acknowledges that he'd have made an accomodation with the South over slavery to save the Union.

I have no doubt that he opposed slavery. Almost every Republican at the time did, but he also saw preserving the Union as paramount over everything else.

The British had sent "advisors" to the South and would've loved to see a divided nation, giving them a chance to move back in and re-colonize the Americas.

Lincoln knew that a divided nation wouldn't survive, so he put the issue of slavery wel behind that of saving the Union.

I didn't imply Lincoln supported slavery only that he saw preserving the Union as far more important (it was) than settling that issue.

I think Spooner's quote made that clear too, "On the part of the North, the war was carried on, not to liberate the slaves but by a government that had always perverted and violated the Constitution, to keep the slaves in bondage; and was willing to do so, if the slaveholders could thereby be induced to stay in the Union." Those who Spooner referred to as having "perverted the Constitution to keep the slaves in bondage," wasn't directed at Lincoln, but Buchanan, the Supreme Court that had come up with the Dred Scott decision, etc.

What Spooner warned of was that the federal government's victory did not result in "freedom for the slaves," but political freedom for everyone.

Spooner had set up the first attempt to compete with the U.S. Postal system and was shut down via the monopoly status the government bequeathed that service.

He was a strong Abolitionist and pretty close to an anarchist, though he was a somewhat flawed, albeit a very interesting character.

JMK said...

EDIT:

"What Spooner warned of was that the federal government's victory did not result in "freedom for the slaves," but political (freedom - SHOULD read SLAVERY) for everyone.

Rachel said...

I love you, jmk, really (well, not as much as my fiancee, or my mom, or my cat, but it's up there) but slaves were still illegally imported into this country after the ban. And if the confederates were so pro-black, despite pro-slave, the confederate soldiers would not kill union black soldiers immediately more often than white union soldiers.

JMK said...

Rachel (ditto, you're a wonderful person and I'm glad I've run into you) and I want to make clear that (1) I DON'T disagree that slavees were imported illegally into the U.S. after 1809 and (2) that those blacks who fought for the South, no doubt reviled slavery...as did many Southern whites, as a slave cost more than a horse (abt $300) pre-1809 and more than double that ($700 or more) after, so only the very well-off could afford to own slaves.

And you're right that the Confederates were especially brutal toward black Union troops - they were certainly NOT "pro-black, though to be fair, neither were the Union troops.

My Dad had a huge interest in the Civil War, took us all to Gettysburg and some of the Vuirginia Battlefields, because he felt it was a part of our family's history.

He was also clear abot the fact that so was the misguided predominant Irish view (and Irish made up appx 80% of the Union's Army) that "This is a N's war."

So were the "Draft Riots" in NYC where hundreds of blacks were hung from lamp posts and a black orphanage was burned to the ground, by largely Irish mobs who felt the draft was unfair because anyone with $500 (a princely sum when a good wage was $5 or $6 a week) could buy their way out of that war. They complained that many well-off blacks (there were blacks freed well before the Civil War who had skills in high demand and who did very well in places like Boston & NY) bought their own children's way out of that war (who wouldn't do that?).

There's a tremendous amount of shame to go around...it's not all on the South, is pretty much what I'm saying.

The human condition itself is all too often one of shame and degredation, as things like bigotry and xenophobia seem like a universal part of the human condition - every group carries the shame of bigotry and other human frailties.

There was a great book written by a now dead author (Jerzy Kosinski) called The Painted Bird, in which Kosinski chronicles the travels of a vaguely defined child (Jew, or Gypsy?) through various European villages, in the wake of his family's deaths.

It is horrific in its accounts, nearly Medieval in the superstitions and living standards recounted and incredibly powerful.

Asked what the point of that strange but impossible to put down book was, he said, "To disabuse people of the view that Nazi-like persecution" (and the book did NOT chronicle Nazi atrocities, just horrible things done by simple villagers) "can occur ANYWHERE and that the view that "it can't happen here," is a very dangerous one."

I agree and just as Nazism was NOT "uniquely German," chattel slavery (which still exists in much of the rest of the world - throughout the Islamic world, most of sub-Saharan Africa and much Asia) is NOT a "uniquely Southern" thing.

In fact prior to 1807 there were slaves in England and prior to around 1820, there were still slaves in places like New York, just as even today chattel slavery exists in MOST of the non-Western world.

I don't believe that we are much better, if better at all, people than those who populated the world back then.

Rachel said...

He fought to have an outsider's pro-slave Constitution ratified for Kansas, one that when set before the Kansans, they rejected outright.

(raises hand)
oohh ooo.. I know that one!
what is the Lecompton constitution?
(I just had to teach a class on Bleeding Kansas)

JMK said...

The Lecompton constitution was the pro-slavery Constitution, right?

I think the original one was boycotted by opponents (always a dumb move) and so it passed, but somehow it wound up in Congress where Republicans and some northern Democrats held its ratification up.

They sent it back for another referendum and that time it was overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Kansas...I think.

That rejection also delayed statehood for Kansas, because they had to come up with another State Constitution prior to being admitted to the Union as a State.

James Buchanan was a terrible President who doomed Lincoln's tenure to the horrific bloodshed that was by then unavoidable.

You could also say Buchanan's tenure also doomed Lincoln himself, who was killed by Southern partisans shortly after the war.

I believe that Mary Surrat (sp?) was the first woman executed in the U.S for her part in the far flung conspiracy of the Lincoln assassination. Secretary of State Seward (who purchased Alaska - "Seward's Ice Box") and other prominent Lincoln Cabinet members were also attacked that night.

I think some historians still believe that Secretary of War Stanton was behind all that, though that remains unproven.

JMK said...

N.B. Guessing....I'm guessing on the Lecompton Constitution being the pro-slavery Constitution.

If you'd asked me what was the name of the pro-slavery Constitution I wouldn't have had a guess....just as I don't know the name of the one that was later ratified.

The "Kansas Constitution?"

I know Buchanan praised the Dred Scott decision as "the final word" on slavery and created a situation in which the Civil War was inevitable.

Saying that, I don't think he was "evil," just short-sighted and thus a disastrous President, especially for that era.

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