Recently, I have been in a philosophical and moral back and forth with the blog Liberty Hangout over the morality of Southern Secession and the reasons thereof which I contend valued and enshrines slavery and white supremacism above all other factors, and I am happy to have this debate. The author of the articles I have been objecting to has released another article, further laying out his case for libertarian support of the Confederacy, which he lays out in orderly and “sensible” points, for his purposes. However, I will attempt to refute them here, in the order he presented his argument. An additional note, it is important to consider that these writings are condemning the Confederacy and should not be interpreted in that light as pro-Union or United States in the dealings mentioned. You can be against one topic without throwing unilateral support behind the “opposition” – which Libertarians are all too aware of when presented with the frightening diatribes of Democrats and Republicans.
Section I: Self-Rule and Self Determination
The author lays out a decent logic contending that the South seceded to protect their state’s rights. He cites instances of “federal over reach” on the part of the North which in his eyes infringed on Southern autonomy and economic prosperity. I will refute these claims thusly.
First, the author seems to cherry pick evidence in the sense that using the might of the federal government to achieve some states’ ends was inconvenient only when it infringes on Southern autonomy. He does not seem to entertain instances where the South used federal power to infringe on the rights of Northern states, and a good example of this are the various Fugitive Slave Laws. Many of the Northern Free States had a de facto policy that once a “fugitive slave” made it onto their soil, they, through common law, were free. However, through the Fugitive Slave Laws, those states’ rights were violated. Where is his criticism here?
The very Constitution that the author decries helps cement this. He appears to ignore that the Constitution was not solely written by the Northern colonies but by the Southern ones as well – all were present in Philadelphia in 1787. This is not to support the US Constitution in this clause, merely to cast a shadow on his claim or “Southern victims.” So, whereas the 3/5th Compromise was used to check Southern claims that their slaves, though wholly owned property, should be used as “population” when determining Congressional representation, the South was able to detract from Northern State’s rights via the Fugitive Slave Clause which demanded that upon request, an escaped slave to the North be returned to his “rightful master”. In states where slavery was forbidden, this clause had no teeth, because there was no legal mechanism in the clause itself providing for the methods said slave be returned, but with the Fugitive Slave act and other similar legislation, that mechanism was provided so that Northern states were “responsible” for returning escaped slaves south.
The Fugitive Slave Act was ignored by some states, and President Millard Fillmore nearly used the military to enforce it in those regions, such as Vermont. On several seceding states’ Declaration of Causes, failure to properly enforce the Fugitive Slave Act was listed as a reason for leaving the Union.
The next point, in my last article, I attempted to prove that the Morrill Tariff was a factor, but by no means the cause of the Civil War. He is correct to counter my argument, it wasn’t particularly thorough in its research, and he has given me the wonderful opportunity to see if I was correct – I still was. It is true that the tariff increased the rate by which ad valorem duties were taxes, and frustrated Southern commercial gains, who relied on heavily on English imports. The Morrill Tariff was met with anger in Britain as well, initially, and I will acknowledge that it is mentioned in the Georgian and South Carolinian Declarations of Causes for Secession.
But it was not the leading cause of the War, because if it were, the North would have demanded secession from the South as a result of the Morrill Tariff, and tariffs in general, which were the largest source of federal funding at the time. As was written on deadconfederates.com, which is highly critical of one of the author’s key sources, Dr. T. DiLorenzo:
Thomas DiLorenzo … made a related and equally implausible claim in his 2002 book, (The Real Lincoln, pp. 125-26) that “in 1860 the Southern states were paying in excess of 80 percent of all tariffs. . . .” People who’d looked at the actual numbers…, called him out on that claim, which DiLorenzo eventually (and quietly) revised in his most recent edition to a somewhat more vague “were paying the Lion’s share of all tariffs.” DiLorenzo, not surprisingly, provides no citation to back this claim. …
(DiLorenzo’s wording is a little different, saying that the “Southern states” were paying tariffs. It’s a strange construction, given that the states weren’t paying tariffs at all, and the tariffs were paid by the merchants doing the importing — who were generally Northerners. Even if DiLorenzo were to argue that it was the end-of-the-line consumer who “paid” the tarfiff through higher costs for goods, it’s a claim that defies credulity, as it would require the eleven states that ultimately seceded, with less than a third of the nation’s population, to be consuming more than four-fifths of all the tariffed good brought into the entire county. It’s a ludicrous notion, which is probably why DiLorenzo doesn’t even pretend to offer a source for it.)
For full charts supporting this assertion, go here: http://deadconfederates.com/2013/02/24/walter-e-williams-polishes-the-turd-on-tariffs ; or here https://cenantua.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/it-was-all-about-taxes/ or read INCIDENTAL PROTECTION: AN EXAMINATION OF THE MORRILL TARIFF by Jane Flaherty.
I don’t necessarily support tariffs but I absolutely support critical thinking, and for sources like Mr. DiLorenzo’s book, which shows a clear, vindictive, bias, sources for claims should be searched and validated for authenticity.
The author also cites several leading figures in United States history and the apparent totalitarianism of the US Constitution. He should know, that the Confederate Constitution kept much of the same material as that of the Old Union, it did not revert to the Articles of Confederation, which he claims to far superior. The battle of the Articles versus the Constitution is the subject for another debate. Thus his message that the Southern States wanted home rule is perverted by the fact that they just re-established the old system of government, and he should also remember that the official style of the Articles was The Articles of Confederation and PERPETUAL UNION, my emphasis added. To say that the Confederate constitution perfected the US constitution is a debate, with one glaring moral contradiction; I will elaborate on later (of course relevant to slavery). He should also remember that the right to secede from the Confederacy was a matter of debate within the Confederate Congress.
The author mentions the Corwin Amendment, a proposed 13th Amendment to the Constitution which would have prohibited Congress from taking any action against slavery as an institution within the Southern States. It does seem to highlight the North’s desire to preserve the Union at all costs as the amendment carried in the US Congress (after seven states had seceded) and was ratified by two states. He believes that if slavery was a major concern for the South, this amendment should have theoretically brought the seceded states back into the Union. I find that to be a jump to conclusions.
The text of the amendment does seem to protect slavery (by other terms) in the states where it existed that much seems true. However, it makes no mention to the status of slavery in territories yet to be admitted as states. Would slavery be permitted there? The expansion of slavery had been contested fiercely in the years leading up to the Civil War, and although “slavery through popular sovereignty” had been accepted, it was on weak legs after the events of Bleeding Kansas. It could be well speculated that the Corwin amendment was insignificant , and the author if he read the language of the amendment would realize this. It prevents the Congress of the United States from making laws relevant to slavery in states where it exists but it still leaves the door open for a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting slavery. As a commentator on a Civil War blog observes of the proposed amendment:
The Corwin Amendment did not prevent the government from abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia.
The Corwin Amendment did not prevent the government from outlawing slavery in Federal forts, armories, and other facilities.
The Corwin Amendment did not prevent the government from outlawing slavery on Federal ships and vessels.
The Corwin Amendment did not prevent the government from prohibiting the extension of slavery into the territories.
The Corwin Amendment did not prevent the President from appointing antislavery postmasters who would allow abolitionist literature free flow through the mails.
The Corwin Amendment did not prevent the President from appointing antislavery marshals who might not be zealous in assisting slave owners pursuing runaway slaves.
The Corwin Amendment did not prevent the President from appointing antislavery judges who would rule against slave owners.
The Corwin Amendment did not force the repeal of Personal Liberty Laws passed by some Northern states.
The Corwin Amendment did not force Abolitionists to stop denouncing slavery and slave states.
The Corwin Amendment would not prevent a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.
The Corwin Amendment would not prevent a state from abolishing slavery on its own.
The Corwin Amendment would only prevent Congress from passing a law to abolish or interfere with the domestic institutions in a state. That’s it. Nothing more.
In the debate of the Corwin Amendment being an “a-ha” on the part of Confederate sympathizers, critical thinking must always be utilized.
Thus the issue of slavery is again back on the table, and to my dismay the author in support of the CSA again cherry picks evidence to support his claims that slavery was a non-issue for the Southern states. He posits that the Declaration of Causes of South Carolina discusses self-determination more than slavery as a justification for leaving the Union. For his purposes, he is correct, but to base the discussion of the Confederacy solely on the actions of the state of South Carolina is a poor argument, because the Civil War was not waged against South Carolina alone, but against the whole of the Confederacy. Thus, we should look at the statements made by as much of the Confederacy as possible.
We will make use of the author’s preference for states’ rights defense for South Carolina’s secession. However, he will be uncomfortable to discover that South Carolina’s justification for its state’s rights still pertains to institutional slavery:
In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations [with respect to the Fugitive Slave Clause and Fugitive Slave Act of 1850]…
For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. 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…
Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; 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.
As one commentator on libertarianism.org declares, “It is not the tariff, not the erosion of state authority in the face of a federal juggernaut, not the safety of Jeffersonian republicanism against Lincolnian Leviathan which prompted South Carolinian secession. Clearly and undoubtedly, South Carolina identified the failure of northern states to abide by the national Fugitive Slave Act as the primary motivating factor for secession, especially given the recent (1860) rise to power of a political party committed to keeping the national territories free of slavery. Lincoln was elected without a single vote from the South (in most southern states the Republican Party did not appear on ballots), and nothing signaled the death of southern (or slaveholding) power within the Union more than the election of a president without even consulting southern opinion on the matter.”
South Carolina still seceded because of slavery, the use of Federal authority, and states’ rights as they were convenient to the South (as established earlier). This conclusion is neither naïve or illogical. South Carolina may not have been the most vocal about the institution of slavery in so many words in its Declaration of Causes but a great deal of attention is given to the surrounding implications of same. It was also not alone in issuing such a statement, and the others which followed are no better.
For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic…The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state…
Thus Georgia makes clear that slavery is a primary concern of the state to leave the Union, the rest of the declaration corroborates this assertion, even while acknowledging the assertions the Confederate Sympathizer lists as key reasons for secession, the State of Georgia acknowledges them, asserts in spite of them the South negotiated deals to their favor, and returns again to slavery:
The material prosperity of the North was greatly dependent on the Federal Government; that of the South not at all. In the first years of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade.
Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury…
The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors..and they received for many years enormous bounties by the general acquiescence of the whole country.
But when these reasons ceased they were no less clamorous for Government protection, but their clamors were less heeded— the country had put the principle of protection upon trial and condemned it. After having enjoyed protection to the extent of from 15 to 200 per cent. upon their entire business for above thirty years, the act of 1846 was passed. It avoided sudden change, but the principle was settled, and free trade, low duties, and economy in public expenditures was the verdict of the American people. The South and the Northwestern States sustained this policy. There was but small hope of its reversal; upon the direct issue, none at all.
All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies. The anti-slavery sentiment of the North offered the best chance for success…We had acquired a large territory by successful war with Mexico; Congress had to govern it; how, in relation to slavery, was the question then demanding solution. This state of facts gave form and shape to the anti-slavery sentiment throughout the North and the conflict began. Northern anti-slavery men of all parties asserted the right to exclude slavery from the territory by Congressional legislation and demanded the prompt and efficient exercise of this power to that end. This insulting and unconstitutional demand was met with great moderation and firmness by the South. We had shed our blood and paid our money for its acquisition; we demanded a division of it on the line of the Missouri restriction or an equal participation in the whole of it. These propositions were refused, the agitation became general, and the public danger was great. The case of the South was impregnable. The price of the acquisition was the blood and treasure of both sections— of all, and, therefore, it belonged to all upon the principles of equity and justice…
The people of Georgia…know the value of parchment rights in treacherous hands, and therefore they refuse to commit their own to the rulers whom the North offers us. Why? Because by their declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union; put it under the ban of the Republic in the States where it exists and out of the protection of Federal law everywhere; because they give sanctuary to thieves and incendiaries who assail it to the whole extent of their power, in spite of their most solemn obligations and covenants; because their avowed purpose is to subvert our society and subject us not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives, and our children, and the desolation of our homes, our altars, and our firesides…
The State of Mississippi was very clear that slavery of the “Negros” was key in its secession decision:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery— the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
The Mississippian Government also cites reasons explained earlier as contributing factors to its secession, among them failure of the North to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and the question of the validity of slavery in Federal Territories.
It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction.
It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.
It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.
It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.
The last point should make true libertarians, still considering whether to weight support to the Confederacy, cringe.
Although Texas presents an interesting theory for its secession, that is was once an independent nation which later joined the Union, still does not excuse the immorality of its decision to leave the United States.
Texas…was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery— the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits— a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?
Yet again, slavery is key in the motives for secession.
It is true that Virginia makes no mention of institutional slavery as a reason for leaving the Union. However, libertarianism.org notes this:
While discussions of the future safety of slavery dominated the Virginia secession convention throughout the Spring of 1861, fretful worrying about slavery’s future turned to fearful reaction after Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s call for volunteers to invade the Confederacy. By then, what appeared to many Virginians as yet another deeply divisive, but eminently compromisable political problem transmogrified into a consolidationist-abolitionist invasion of the South. The Virginia “Declaration,” therefore, well represents what has been called “The Myth of the Lost Cause,” the notion that secession was really all about maintaining classic, Jeffersonian, liberal government in the face of Leviathan-from-the-North. Yet even lurking behind Virginia’s rather tame proclamation were fears of slave rebellion and class revolution against planters in particular and white southerners more broadly. Even when the Old Dominion slowly rose to the occasion, she did so to defend slavery from the constant stream of abolitionist threats to southern social order.
Many of the other Southern states fare no better, and some of their most damning and dedicated statements to the cause of slavery will be listed as follows. They may not be in Declarations of causes, but they are still sourced from official government documents.
“Louisiana Commissioner Geo. Williamson urges Texas to secede ‘to preserve the blessings of African slavery’”
As a separate republic, Louisiana remembers too well the whisperings of European diplomacy for the abolition of slavery in the times of annexation not to be apprehensive of bolder demonstrations from the same quarter and the North in this country. The people of the slave holding States are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery.
“The Alabama legislature resolves to secede if a Republican is elected president.”
Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republican party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as it change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new principles, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions—nothing less than an open declaration of war—for the triumph of this new theory of Government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning her citizens to assassinations, and. her wives and daughters to pollution and violation, to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans.
Notice how Alabama fears what occurred in Haiti, referenced by “horrors of San Domingo”.
The author then proves his own misunderstanding of the topics at hand. He asserts that the Southern states “did not so vehemently seek to protect an institution that the United States federal government was more than willing to protect for them. Rather, the South wished to no longer live under the chokeholds of a tyrannical federal government.” They seem to make very clear a fear that slavery would be lost in Lincolnian America. Furthermore, if he read the Confederate Constitution he would realize this is notion is generally misguided, as that Constitution, in Article 1, Section 9, Clause 4 states “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed” thus “explicitly enshrining the institution of slavery in Confederate law, which as I have mentioned, the Corwin Amendment would not have done.
Second he asserts, “Furthermore, if it were not for Lincoln’s illegal imprisonment of Confederate sympathizers, even more states would have joined the Confederacy”, he is not totally wrong but should amend the statement to “even more slave states”, as at Article IV, Section 3, Clause 3, explicitly declares that only states permitting slavery may be admitted into the Confederacy.
What I hope this section did was cast reasonable doubt on claims that slavery was of minor importance to the Confederate states in their secession. States’ Rights as a justification would be useful if the Southern states were consistent in their belief in the concept, but they attempted to use the Federal government to achieve their ends, and Northern states were guilty of this too. After disqualifying the Corwin Amendment as a serious attempt to preserve the Union (and even if it were adopted prove that it was not the unilateral law to preserve slavery as the Liberty Hangout author would imply) I attempt to demonstrate that at the heart of the secession of the several states, and the Confederate government they established was the preservation and expansion of black slavery in their territories. I urge libertarians who sympathize with the Confederacy to stop, think and ponder the information contained in the following links:
Section II: The War
There will never be a good libertarian justification for war which will satisfy all libertarians, because war itself is not libertarian. However, it is the outcomes of war and the reasons for engaging in the conflict which could reluctantly view some wars as more noble, or more just than others, but no war will be just and no war will be noble.
When discussing the Civil War, we look to find heroes, but we will be hard pressed to find any, despite how much we want to. In this section I will offer devils advocacy to some Union actions, but that should not be misconstrued as unilateral support for Union goals, methods, and outcomes from the Civil War.
The author’s argument for the Southern cause “justifying” the War hinges on the belief that the Confederate States of America was an independent country because they declared it as such. Personally, I endorse the right for any subdivision of a federation to withdraw from that federation, if the central government of same does not properly represent them. However, it is rare for any government to provide the mechanism for its own undoing (New Hampshire’s “Right to Revolution” is a notable example), as it would violate the very nature of government as an institution, and the United States Constitution is no exception.
We can trace this back to the spirit of the nation’s founding as wholly independent from Great Britain, as federated states bound together for their own mutual benefit. The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union clearly indicate this in the document’s title. The use of United, in the United states should make it clear that a perpetual, “more perfect” union was the mission of the US Constitution as successor to the Articles of Confederation, and in their Declaration of Intents, many states attempted to justify their secession by arguing that the Northern states had failed to complete their obligations implied by the Constitution (which had violated their states’ rights) and had left the US Constitution as invalid, not that the Constitution granted that right (apparently).
However, it is unreasonable to presume that the government of the United States would accept that and it did not, the original stated goal of the Union during the war was the preservation of the Union. I will not comment on the legality of secession in the US constitution, I will merely for arguments sake accept the reasoning offered by the Union, which is the service of the previous paragraph.
Thus in the Union’s mindset the actions of the Confederacy was a rebellion, which the United States Constitution grants government the power to combat. It is here I will clarify, that Union behavior against the Confederacy, had it been recognized by the Union as an independent state would have been unconstitutional, but Presidential force had been used to quell rebellion from the Union perspective, which the Confederacy had been seen to be in. To call it an “illegal” was is a tricky statement to make.
This is not a comment on the morality of the conduct of war, or in some way condoning the Union in its own practices during the conflict, many of which were illegal. Also the South was guilty of implementing a draft and inflating its currency, but the conflict as it happened was of Confederate provocation.
I will now pause, because this will appear the victor’s narrative, and in matters of secession, it is often the only appropriate narrative to deliver. If history acknowledged every state which declared its secession, or independence, or self-proclaimed legitimacy the modern world would accept the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as the legitimate government of those two nations. International recognition was important during the American Revolution, with the Continental Congress securing the support of France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic. However, despite attempts to achieve it, the Confederacy never ascertained the status of sovereign state from the British or French, although some aid was given to their “rebel” cause; that is a long way away from acknowledgement of a legitimate government in the international community.
Thus the Civil War began when Confederate forces attempted to seize Fort Sumter.
But a-ha! Surely this was a twist of history to cause the Confederacy to start the war! Perhaps this can clarify such a belief:
Now, who fired the first shot at Fort Sumter? Jefferson Davis authorized it. Yet he does not seem to exist, either, in DiLorenzo’s narrative.
As for Fort Sumter, perhaps DiLorenzo needs to refresh his understanding of the facts. Lincoln sent an expedition to reprovision the fort. Given that South Carolinians had fired on a United States vessel in January, it was only understandable that warships might well accompany the expedition. However, if Lincoln was hell-bent on starting a war, why notify Governor Pickens in the first place? Why couldn’t Jefferson Davis have let the garrison be resupplied, and continue negotiations? Why did he choose war? Oh, that’s right, the Confederacy exercises no agency and bears no responsibility for what happened in April 1861. It’s all Lincoln’s fault.
The Fox letter (dated May 1, 1861) that DiLorenzo cites reads as follows:
I sincerely regret that the failure of the late attempt to provision Fort-Sumpter, should be the source of any annoyance to you. The practicability of your plan was not, in fact, brought to a test. By reason of a gale, well known in advance to be possible, and not improbable, the tugs, an essential part of the plan, never reached the ground; while, by an accident, for which you were in no wise responsible, and possibly I, to some extent was, you were deprived of a war vessel with her men, which you deemed of great importance to the enterprize.
I most cheerfully and truly declare that the failure of the undertaking has not lowered you a particle, while the qualities you developed in the effort, have greatly heightened you, in my estimation. For a daring and dangerous enterprize, of a similar character, you would, to-day, be the man, of all my acquaintances, whom I would select.
You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort-Sumpter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result.
Most of the letter deals with a mishap to Fox’s original plan. Clearly it is the last sentence that draws our attention, and all it suggests is that Lincoln saw the effort to relief Sumter as a win-win situation: either the fort would have been resupplied, prolonging the stalemate, or the Confederates would initiate hostilities. That’s different than saying he wanted war: he left that decision in Davis’s hands. Nor does DiLorenzo mention Davis’s interest in initiating hostilities at Fort Pickens, a sign of Confederate intent.
- Slavery Would Have Soon Been Dead
This is a troubling statement. It is impossible to disprove the statement that slavery would have soon been dead, but it is also very difficult to verify. The author attempts to use Mises to attempt to justify this point, but not well. Mises justification as he uses it seems to imply that the uneconomic nature of slavery would be its own undoing, while simultaneously attesting to other states and nations abolishing slavery through legal action. Those are not the same things.
Furthermore, we must return to the nature of the secession in the first place. The argument I am dismissing holds that that slavery was unimportant to the Confederacy, but that simply isn’t so, as section one details. In fact, there is reason to believe that the argument over the preservation of and the expansion of slavery was itself evident that slavery was not in decline. Imperial holdings were in the eyes of Union men, but also Confederate leaders and antebellum slaveholding Southerners. As Mississippi Senator Albert Brown said in 1858:
I want Cuba, and I know that sooner or later we must have it. If the worm-eaten throne of Spain is willing to give it for a fair equivalent, well—if not, we must take it. I want Tamaulipas, Potosi, and one or two other Mexican Stats; and I want them all for the same reason—for the planting and spreading of slavery.
And a footing in Central America will powerfully aid us in acquiring those other states. It will render them less valuable to the other powers of the earth, and thereby diminish competition with us. Yes, I want these countries for the spread of slavery. I would spread the blessings of slavery, like the religion of our Divine Master, to the uttermost ends of the earth, and rebellious and wicked as the Yankees have been, I would even extend it to them.
I would not force it upon them, as I would not force religion upon them, but I would preach it to them, as I would preach the gospel. They are a stiff-necked and rebellious race, and I have little hope that they will receive the blessing, and I would therefore prepare for its spread to other more favored lands.
In fact after the Civil War, Confederates still loyal to the cause emigrated to start neo-confederate colonies in South and Central America. They were ultimately unsuccessful ventures.
The author then attempts to glamorize the life for freed slaves in the South, where opportunity “thrived” for the majority of freedmen in the United States inhabited the Confederate territory. He cites an article by Henry Louis Gates to support this, where Dr. Gates states that some occupations suited freemen quite well. In which case, good for them – but it isn’t quite that simple.
First, it can be easily stated that most blacks which remained in the South did so because, as the article admits, it’s easier to stay in a place than move. Freedmen were sometimes given land by their former “benevolent” masters, and if they obtained it, odds are they’d prefer to keep it. If the author continued to read the article he’d discover this passage:
In a few remarkable cases, blacks in the North even moved into the South, including New Orleans, for economic opportunity (you can imagine how this infuriated white government officials).
But don’t be deceived, Berlin warns. The pull blacks felt toward greater degrees of freedom was real — to the North, including all the way to Canada, and to the South, including the swamps of Florida. Over time, this created a “brain drain” that saw some of the South’s most talented free blacks leave for leadership opportunities outside the region.
As Berlin writes, “During the nineteenth century, the proportion of American free Negroes living in the South shrank steadily, and the center of the free Negro population slowly moved northward. More important, this outward migration stripped the free Negro caste of some of its most talented, ambitious, and aggressive members. Among the blacks born free in the South who later rose to prominence in the North were Martin Delany, Daniel Payne, Robert Purvis, and David Walker.”
Those who stayed were reminded constantly that whites would never be comfortable with their presence — or, at the same time, be able to let go of such a comparatively cheap labor supply. This push-pull continued through the antebellum period, so that every time it seemed the anti-free black lobby was about to legislate a final solution of deportation to the North, colonization in Africa, the Caribbean or South America, or re-enslavement, the business community prevailed in retaining the status quo. (In many ways, this anticipated the various sides of the immigration debate today.) “The inability to subjugate free Negroes frustrated whites and incited harsher repression, but still the free Negroes remained,” Berlin writes. “And they multiplied.”
To paint a rosy picture for the freedman in the North or South during this time is difficult, and that is harder still for that of the South. One need only read the first few paragraphs of the Cornerstone Speech by VPOTCS to understand that.
The terrible tragedy of this entire discussion is that is relegates slaves and freedmen to archetypes which deny them what they were, human beings. The discussion of the institution of slavery is a cleaned up way of stating how men in that era believed it was morally and economically acceptable to own people they believed to be inferior. Any discussion of slavery is a discussion of oppression, no matter how “benevolent” someone may wish to make it appear, for slavery denies the equality of man. So to say “slavery would have ended on its own” is an oppressive statement, for it disregards the lives and dreams of those born into slavery who would have otherwise engaged in the rights and privileges of free men. To say “slavery would have ended on its own” passively those “transient” slaves who were exploited and abused in the duration that it took to “end on its own” – a time frame which is impossible to predict, especially given the information presented above.
For my own personal disagreements with some aspects of his philosophy, Murray Rothbard advocates a policy which the Liberty Hangout author should consider ahead of that of Mises. He states “…there was only one possible solution to the slave question: immediate and unconditional abolition, with no compensation to the slavemasters. Indeed, any compensation should have been the other way- to repay the oppressed slaves for their lifetime of slavery.”
Section IV: Consistency
In his final section, the author attempts to argue that the consistent libertarian should either be opposed to both the American Revolution and the Civil War, or “take the good with the bad” and “revere” (a sensational, eerily statist statement) the Confederacy. He is wrong, but he does not know it.
The crux of his argument, like mine, lies on the degree to which slavery played a role in the formation of the Confederate States and in the US – and they are different. The problem is that he does not see it the correct way, despite how much I hope this response proves otherwise to him. The US, from its outset, limited as well as protected slavery. Washington, Jefferson, and Madison were all slave owners. These are all true statements, and it should leave the libertarian curious as to whether these men and their ideas should be heeded. And in this realm I will agree with Liberty Hangout – the good must be taken with the bad. For however important these men were to the cause of libertarianism, that should not come without admitting to their hypocrisy. So what makes the US and CS different? They are not men.
When Washington and the Founding Fathers created the United States, in Spirit they attempted to instill upon nation which stood on the principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The “pursuit of happiness” was included as a substitute for property, as there was no unanimous consensus as to whether the slave was man or property. However much as the men who drafted it were hypocrites to whatever degree in their own right, the resulting document, the US Constitution does not speak in racial terms and is reluctant to use the term “slave” at all.
Compare that to the Confederate Constitution, which enshrines slavery and racial hierarchy in codified law. There is nothing libertarian about this, as it specifically targets one group of people, those of African ancestry, as inferior beings rightfully subjected to involuntary service. Although this does not excuse the US Constitution of its transgressions, the case can be made that it does not identify a particular race when it discusses those “bound to service”.
But the Confederacy asserted itself as a wholly different nation from the United States and was very clear that its founding principles were different, and if you don’t take my word for it, take it from Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens:
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other — though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone 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 and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science.
No one who calls themselves libertarian and means it should try and embrace anything Confederate, lest they delude themselves to the point of mockery.