Friday, July 10, 2015

Southern Crybabies Start War; Slaughter Ensues

As you may have noticed, there has been a lot of public discussion of the Civil War recently. One point that has been made often is that yes, the cause the South was fighting for really was slavery (and not, say, "states' rights"), and that this is quite evident when we read the states' Declarations of Secession.

So I was looking at South Carolina's Declaration of Secession. It was the first in the nation, and South Carolina is the state that fired the first shot of the Civil War. South Carolina is also the state that's been the focus of the recent news.

Now, recall that this was the bloodiest war in U.S. history, killing about 620,000 people (the equivalent of around 6 million today), ending slavery, and permanently impoverishing the South. You would think, then, that they would not make this decision lightly.

You'd be wrong. What is most striking about South Carolina's reasons for secession is how trivial they are. They complain at great length that Northern states are not returning fugitive slaves, as the Constitution requires:

In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution...In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. 

Annoying, of course, if you're a slaveowner--but annoying enough to start a war? Surely not. And how exactly is secession going to make things better? One would think, in fact, that being a separate nation makes the  problem worse; for instance, you might not be allowed even to enter the neighboring state. (Notice, by the way, that the secession was actually a revolt against states' rights. The association of the Civil War with states' rights, like the public display of the Confederate battle flag, dates to the era of school desegregation.)

So you're seceding over this? Oh no, there's much more:

Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions..they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; 

Ma! Jimmy's calling me sinful!

...they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

Again, annoying; but how is secession supposed to help? (By the way, great oxymoron: "servile insurrection.")

And finally, we get to the nub

A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

So the trigger for South Carolina's secession is, in fact, the election of Lincoln.  Mind you, Lincoln hasn't even been inaugurated yet, let alone done anything against slavery. But he is "hostile" to it. The slaveowners feel unloved.

Those are their reasons for starting a war. In fairness, they probably never imagined that because of them, one American in fifty (or, I suppose, one American male in 25) would die.

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