Was the Civil War About Slavery?

Was the Civil War About Slavery?

Was the American Civil War fought because
of slavery? More than 150 years later this remains a controversial question. Why? Because many people don’t want to believe
that the citizens of the southern states were willing to fight and die to preserve a morally
repugnant institution. There has to be another reason, we are told. Well, there isn’t. The evidence is clear and overwhelming. Slavery
was, by a wide margin, the single most important cause of the Civil War — for both sides.
Before the presidential election of 1860, a South Carolina newspaper warned that the
issue before the country was, “the extinction of slavery,” and called on all who were not
prepared to, “surrender the institution,” to act. Shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s victory,
they did. The secession documents of every Southern
state made clear, crystal clear, that they were leaving the Union in order to protect
their “peculiar institution” of slavery — a phrase that at the time meant “the thing special
to them.” The vote to secede was 169 to 0 in South Carolina, 166 to 7 in Texas, 84 to 15 in Mississippi. In no Southern state was the vote close. Alexander Stephens of Georgia, the Confederacy’s
Vice President clearly articulated the views of the South in March 1861. “Our new government,” he said, was founded on slavery. “Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great
truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, submission to the superior
race, is his natural and normal condition.” Yet, despite the evidence, many continue to
argue that other factors superseded slavery as the cause of the Civil War. Some argue that the South only wanted to protect
states’ rights. But this raises an obvious question: the states’ rights to what? Wasn’t
it to maintain and spread slavery? Moreover, states’ rights was not an exclusive Southern
issue. All the states — North and South — sought to protect their rights — sometimes they
petitioned the federal government, sometimes they quarreled with each other. In fact, Mississippians
complained that New York had too strong a concept of states’ rights because it would not allow Delta planters to bring their slaves to Manhattan. The South was preoccupied with
states’ rights because it was preoccupied first and foremost with retaining slavery. Some argue that the cause of the war was economic.
The North was industrial and the South agrarian, and so, the two lived in such economically different societies that they could no longer stay together. Not true. In the middle of the 19th century, both North
and South were agrarian societies. In fact, the North produced far more food crops than
did the South. But Northern farmers had to pay their farmhands who were free to come
and go as they pleased, while Southern plantation owners exploited slaves over whom they had
total control. And it wasn’t just plantation owners who supported
slavery. The slave society was embraced by all classes in the South. The rich had multiple
motivations for wanting to maintain slavery, but so did the poor, non-slave holding whites.
The “peculiar institution” ensured that they did not fall to the bottom rung of the social
ladder. That’s why another argument — that the Civil War couldn’t have been about slavery
because so few people owned slaves — has little merit. Finally, many have argued that President Abraham
Lincoln fought the war to keep the Union together, not to end slavery. That was true at the outset
of the war. But he did so with the clear knowledge that keeping the Union together meant either
spreading slavery to all the states — an unacceptable solution — or vanquishing it
altogether. In a famous campaign speech in 1858, Lincoln
said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” What was it that divided the country?
It was slavery, and only slavery. He continued: “I believe this government cannot endure permanently
half slave and half free… It will become all one thing, or all the other.” Lincoln’s
view never changed, and as the war progressed, the moral component, ending slavery, became
more and more fixed in his mind. His Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 turned that into law. Slavery is the great shame of America’s history.
No one denies that. But it’s to America’s everlasting credit that it fought the most devastating war in its history in order to abolish slavery. As a soldier, I am proud that the United States
Army, my army, defeated the Confederates. In its finest hour, soldiers wearing this
blue uniform — almost two hundred thousand of them former slaves themselves — destroyed
chattel slavery, freed 4 million men, women, and children from human bondage, and saved
the United States of America. I’m Colonel Ty Seidule, Professor and Head,
Department of History at the United States Military Academy, West Point
for Prager University.


  1. Post
    Patrick Sulley

    Tending the Farm
    Slave labor was used extensively in the farming and maintenance of the 850-acre plantation. Enslaved men at White Haven such as Dan, Bob, and Jefferson plowed, sowed, and reaped the wheat, oats, Irish potatoes, and Indian corn grown on the estate. They also cared for the orchards and gardens, harvesting the fruits and vegetables for consumption by all who lived on the property. More than 75 horses, cattle, and pigs required daily attention. Numerous remodeling projects on the main house such as an added sitting room in the 1830s and the construction of several outbuildings also utilized the skills of those in servitude.

  2. Post
    Patrick Sulley

    Personal Lives
    The enslaved people claimed time for socializing among family and friends amid their time-consuming labors. Corn shuckings provided one opportunity to come together as a community to eat, drink, sing, and visit. These gatherings often included enslaved laborers from nearby plantations. Participation in religious activities, individually or as a group, also provided a sense of integrity. Julia remembered “Old Bob” going into the meadow to pray and sing. According to historian Lorenzo J. Greene, “St. Louis…was the only place in the state where the organized black church achieved any measure of success.” Whether or not the Dent slaves were allowed to attend services is unknown.

  3. Post
    Patrick Sulley

    Grant and Slavery
    When Ulysses S. Grant first moved to White Haven in 1854, he benefitted from the labors of a number of Colonel Dent’s enslaved men who helped him fell trees, plant crops, and construct his “Hardscrabble” log cabin. In an 1858 letter to his sister Grant stated that “I have now three negro men, two hired by the year and one of Mr. Dents, which, with my own help, I think, will enable me to do my farming pretty well.” At some point during Grant’s time at White Haven he also acquired ownership of an enslaved man named William Jones from his father-in-law. Later, in the spring of 1859, the Grant family moved to downtown St. Louis. While there, four enslaved workers that had been loaned to Julia by her father tended to the family’s needs until the Grants decided to move to Galena, Illinois, in early 1860.

  4. Post
    Patrick Sulley

    In an 1858 letter to his sister Grant stated that “I have now three negro men, two hired by the year and one of Mr. Dents, which, with my own help, I think, will enable me to do my farming pretty well.”

  5. Post
    Patrick Sulley

    Sad that you need my validation so bad you have to change it not once not twice not three times but 4 times. This is the whole reason nobody believes what is written in history books because people like you form an opinion that's incorrect and decide to shove it down other people's throats by changing history or changing the narrative to fit your idea of what should have happened instead of what actually did happen

  6. Post
    Patrick Sulley

    Grant and his family benefitted from the labors of more than William Jones, however, including numerous enslaved people owned by Colonel Dent and others hired from local slaveholders. At some point DURING the Civil War, the remaining enslaved laborers at White Haven simply walked off,…LOL

  7. Post
    Patrick Sulley


  8. Post
  9. Post

    Why do you constantly lie in every post? I know you're just a racist troll, but even a fat coward like you has to know that lying obliterates your credibility. A real man tells the truth and lives with the consequences; only a coward hides behind lies and deceit. Didn't your garbage parents ever teach you that lying is wrong? I hope they're not alive to see what you've become.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *