Why War? Southern Justification For Slavery & Secession


Slavery is among the leading catalysts leading up to the Civil War in 1861. By then, compromise after compromise had failed to settle the issues of slavery, tariffs, and general differences between the war and the South. Both sides realized compromise was getting them nowhere, and most of the time politicians refused to present an opinion for fear of breaking the tense ties between the North and the South. The disparity between the two sections grew and grew until there was no turning back. The South decided these differences were too great, and seceded from the Union to create the Confederate States of America.

The first African slave was introduced to what would become America in the early 1600s. Why wasn’t it a problem then, and why did it take 250 years to turn into a war? Could anything have been done? Why didn’t slavery end earlier?

When race-based slavery was introduced to the colonies, it was justified by the claim that God made people of African descent inferior to whites. This justification ensured the longevity of slavery for most people in the colonies, even in the North, until the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening was a religious revival; everyone affected renewed their love for God, attended church regularly, and increased their moral standard. In the North, it became apparent that it might actually be wrong to enslave, whip, and torture other human beings, even ones with a darker skin color.

This drew a religious line between the North and the South, dividing the churches. By the time the Second Great Awakening came around, the South was incredibly economically dependant on slaves to grow cotton. The South could not function without the countless slaves, and the elite whites rejoiced in the wealth of the cotton industry. Slavery was embedded too deeply into the South for mere ideas to remove it. The North, on the other hand, didn’t rely on slaves to flourish. It was therefore much simpler to free blacks in the Northern states

The Industrial Revolution (1820-1870) drastically improved industry in the South and North. In 1793, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, which caused a boom in the South’s need for slave labor and the South’s cotton export. The invention of the cotton gin was the first step to industrialization, beginning with the textile industry. The South’s renewed economic dependence on slave labor insured that slavery was firmly tied in with Southern life. The Industrial Revolution crushed the final hope of the peaceful emancipation of slaves. The South, unlike the North, relied to heavily on slavery, and the elite whites held on to their slaves too greedily for anything but eventual cruel and bloody conflict. The North, rather than expand agriculturally, expanded industries, creating economic barriers between the North and the South.

In fact, many people in the South didn’t comprehend the moral issue of slavery. Many whites truly believed that God created blacks with the distinct purpose of enslavement and servitude, that blacks were built to be stupid and simple minded.Slaves were property, and personal property is protected by law. It would be illogical to free the slaves, because they can’t even be considered human.

On April 21, 1858 in Ottawa, Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas gave a speech in his first debate against Abraham Lincoln for a seat in the Senate. In his speech, Douglas claimed that Lincoln fully supported racial equality. “Mr. Lincoln believes that the Negro was born his equal and yours, and that he was endowed with the equality” When Lincoln was later elected President of the United States, the South, South Carolina in particular, was outraged.

It would not be democracy, South Carolina claimed, for the federal government to take away slaves, white man’s property. The South was further outraged with the Underground Railroad, which worked fruitlessly to help blacks escape to the North. It was not democratic to take away property. It was not democratic to elect a President so biased against half of the country. It was not democratic to let the North rule and leave the South’s views to be squashed upon. It was democratic, therefore, for the South to secede from such a tyrannical and unfair government and start over, with slavery.

The South, now the Confederacy, viewed secession as leaving an unjust government, no different from the American Revolution. Slavery was the blood of the South, quite necessary for the elite to remain elite. The South felt perfectly justified in its secession and protection of slavery, because it hoped to thrive on cotton and slavery, just as it had for the majority of its history.

Picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_inspection_and_sale_of_a_slave.jpg

Author: Brantz Mayer


Was Lincoln Racist? Document A

“The Confederate States of America.” The American Civil War Home Page. N.p., 21 Nov. 2006. Web. Dec. 2013.

Kelly, Martin. “Industrial Revolution in 19th Century America – Industrial Revolution.”About.com American History. N.p., n.d. Web. Dec. 2013.

Ms. Searcy. “Ms. Searcy’s Online Leactures.” N.p., Web. Dec. 2013.

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