Slavery and its True Role in the Fracturing of the American Union

Excerpted from

Lesser Known Historical Excerpts Relevant to The War for Southern Independence

(a.k.a. The American Civil War)

Eric Patterson

The voice of abolition in New England had been a significant factor in the reduction and near elimination of the long history of slavery in that region by 1860.  But as legal slavery began to recede into New England's past, a gradual, regional amnesia began to cleanse both memory and official dialog of this facet New England history.  Together with the emergence of New England nationalistic fervor based in an idealized view of being the guardian of the true spirit of the Republic, this revision of her history of slavery allowed for the creation of a picture of regional moral piety and a corresponding superior attitude toward the South.  This attitude would gradually spread throughout much of the North, coloring its attitude, language and political debate towards the people of the South as the pace quickened toward ultimate conflict.

In the months just prior to Lincoln's decision to march on the South, the voice of Northern merchants and financiers grew more desperate at the prospect of entering into a trade and tariff war with the South.  With the high import tariffs of the North and the low tariffs of the South, it was feared that foreign manufactured goods would naturally enter through the South.  It was also feared that the Southern market for Northern manufactured goods would shrivel, if not dry up.

On the issue of secession, the agrarian South felt it had nothing to lose and everything to gain, while Northern merchants, financiers, and the Federal coffer stood only to lose.  The South did not need the North for their economic wellbeing nearly as much as the growth and prosperity of the North depended on the South's continued membership in the Union.  Surely, it is not hard to believe that economics was a major factor in both the secession of the Southern States and the ultimate cry from the North for war once the economic realities settled in.  And surely it is not unrealistic to think that the combined outcry of powerful Northern capitalists was heeded by Lincoln and the Republicans, especially with the threat of economic catastrophe should the South be permitted to remain out of the Union.  In short, the North panicked at prospect of competing against the South in the arena of free trade, and also at the threat to it's rapidly expanding industrial infrastructure for lack of sufficient Federal funding.

So, it wasn't slavery, as such, that the North objected to, it was the strength of the voice of Southern interests that interfered with the growing Northern appetite for Federal monies, as well as persistent conflict over other regional interests subject to debate at the Federal level that had to be dealt with.  It just so happened that slavery was a part of the larger regional equation.

Had the South threatened the roots of Northern economics and culture from a position of superior political strength, the North would have reacted similarly.  Indeed, this scenario had been played out in the Nation's past on numerous occasions.  Political and economic grievances such as these were not new, for New England had voiced similar ones at various times throughout American history, threatening secession herself multiple times.


·        "In New England slavery began as early as 1637, but it was Indian slavery.  At the close of the war which destroyed the Pequot tribe the Massachusetts Bay colony had a number of captives on its hands, mostly women and children.  The boys were sent to the West Indies to be sold as slaves, while the women and girls were to be kept in slavery in the New England colonies" (WEW p. 76; JPM p. 18-19, 37).

·        The slave trade had early roots in New England, going back as early as 1640.  The sailing ship Desire, sailing from Salem, Massachusetts is designated as the first slave ship outfitted in America (JRK p. 66).

·        The Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641 included the first legal code to sanction slavery, defining those suitable for enslavement as "lawful captives taken in just warres, and such [non-resident] strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold to us" (WEW p. 78; JPM p. 35).

·        By the mid Eighteenth century, slavery in New England had significantly contributed to the expansion and diversification of that region's early nonmarket economy because, in large part, household slaves enabled the white master and head of the household to seek additional means of income outside of the confines of the homestead.

"The timing of the evolution of slavery as an institution in New England would seem to support the thesis that slaves contributed to the expansion and diversification of the New England economy (JPM p. 18).

"The years of greatest growth [in the population of slaves], between 1700 and 1750, coincided with an increase in agricultural productivity, the expansion of local and regional markets, widespread entrepreneurial activity, and the development of craft enterprises into manufactories" (JPM p. 19).

·        Newport, Rhode Island was the center of the slave trade in colonial America.  In 1750, Newport's fleet of slaving ships numbered one hundred and seventy (SEM p. 149; FWS p. 28).

·        West Indian molasses provided the basis of the New England slave trade.  The molasses was used in the making of rum by New England distillers.  New England based slave ships would then take on a cargo of rum to be used in trading for African slaves (JRK p. 66-67).  According to the research of author Francis W. Springer:

"[A]s early as the 1750's there were 63 distilleries in Massachusetts and 30 in Rhode Island busy converting molasses into rum for the [slave] trade.  When an import duty was levied on molasses, it was never collected because it was claimed that it would ruin the slave trade, throw 5,000 men out of work and cause 700 ships to rot" (FWS p. 42; also JRK p. 67).

·        According to author Daniel P. Mannix in his book, Black Cargoes, the colony of Rhode Island registered a protest to the English Board of Trade in 1763 over the tax on molasses claiming it would greatly harm her slave trade, a mainstay of her economy (JRK p. 67).

·        The July, 1916 issue of the Hartford Current summarized the operation of the New England slave trade and its contribution to slavery in the South:

"Northern rum had much to do with the extension of slavery in the South.  Many people in this state [Connecticut] as well as in Boston, made snug fortunes for themselves by sending rum to Africa to be exchanged for slaves and then selling the slaves to the planters of Southern states" (SCV p. 14).

·        According to the Boston News Letter, at least twenty-three thousand blacks were brought from Africa to Massachusetts between 1755 and 1766 (FWS p. 28).

·        American slave ships flew the Stars and Stripes not the flags of the Confederate States of America (JRK p. 69-70).

·        The eventual abolition of slavery in the North was made economically viable, in part, due to the growth in the number of white laborers (JRK p. 54).  According to author Lorenzo Johnson Green, in his 1966 book The Negro in Colonial New England 1620-1776, John Adams insisted that the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts was due to the protest of competing white laborers rather than for ethical or moral reasons.  Adams stated,

"Argument might have some weight in the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts, but the real cause was the multiplication of labouring white people, who would no longer suffer the rich to employ these sable rivals so much to their injury.  The common people would not suffer the labor, by which alone they could obtain a subsistence, to be done by slaves.  If the gentlemen had been permitted by law to hold slaves, the common white people would have put the slaves to death, and their masters too perhaps" (JRK p. 84; SCV p. 13).

·        The acts of gradual emancipation of both Rhode Island and Connecticut stipulated that slaves born after March 1, 1784 would be "free" in that they were not slaves for life, but would obtain actual independence upon reaching the age of majority.  The age of majority in Connecticut was to be age 25 (later reduced to 21) and age 21 in Rhode Island.  These acts also allowed "slaveowners the uncompensated services of slaves until they reached the ages of majority specified by law" (JPM p. 68-69, 74).

·        The purpose for a scheme of gradual emancipation of slaves in New England must not be blurred with that of abolition.

"The gradual abolition statutes did not legislate slavery out of existence, they were not designed to do that.  Slaves were included in the population schedules for New England states through the 1840 federal census." (JPM p. 76).

"[These] statutes effectively preserved the status quo, delaying the freedom of newborn "free" children until their twenties, denying the possibility of freedom to most slaves over forty (and later, thirty) years of age, ignoring the situation of those between.  What, after all, had changed?" (JPM p. 84).

·        The status of children born to a slave woman could be described as uncompensated indenture.  These children were essentially slaves except that, by law, their time of service was to expire when they reached the age of majority.  With the growing acceptance of eventual abolition in New England, "indenture was also used occasionally as a transitional status for groups of enslaved persons who for some reason came under the supervision of a public body unwilling to maintain them as slaves but reluctant to release them into a status of freedom that might require town support" (JPM p. 77-78, 100).

Public officials exercising stewardship over blacks, whether still legally slaves or those born "free" to a slave, would enter into contracts with other white citizens for use of their labor.  Under this system, "the council was selling the time of the laborers, not property in them."  On September 29, 1848 in his "An address to the Colored People of the United States," Fredrick Douglas commented that Northern emancipation laws had transformed blacks from slaves of individuals to "slaves of the community” (JPM p. 86).

·        As long as most New England blacks continued in slavery, their color or race was not a great limiting factor to those who were free and independent, as records of successful free New England blacks prior to the early 1800's demonstrate.  However, once a growing number of blacks began to be emancipated under New England's various forms of gradual emancipation, the view of blacks changed from that of mere presumptive or potential slave, to a "'natural' state of permanent and inherent inferiority."  The gradual change in public opinion regarding slavery during and after the Revolutionary War period in New England saw a decline in the acceptance of slaveholding, but not in the perception that slavery was still a "natural condition" of persons of color (JPM p. 39, 74).

·        George H. Moore, in his 1866 book Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts, documents that in 1788 Massachusetts, having instituted a process of gradual emancipation of its slaves, passed a law stating that blacks, mulattos, and Indians who came into the State and remained two months would be publicly whipped (JRK p. 76).

·        The method of gradual emancipation used in the North respected "property rights" of the Northern slave holders and sought to minimize the economic impact to the region (JRK p. 75; JPM p. 96, 101; SEM p. 295).

"In most cases, legislative initiatives swept into acceptance in a burst of pietistic or republican sentiment were quickly followed by provisions that limited their economic impact and minimized the degree to which they made any effective change in the relations of slaveholders, slaves, and their communities.  Statutes that eroded slaveholding nonetheless preserved slaveowner's property rights in slaves and sought to minimize losses that abolition might entail" (JPM p. 75).

·        Because slavery was a greater factor in their economy, gradual emancipation in both New York and New Jersey came about later than in New England.  New York began a system of gradual emancipation in 1799 and New Jersey in 1804 (SEM p. 295).

·        In 1799, New York declared that children born to slaves after July 4, 1799 were to be free.  As abolition approached in New England States, many New York slaveowners sold their slaves out of state to recoup the loss in value of their slave holdings-an investment that wasn't especially profitable in the North, anyway (JRK p. 75-76; JPM p. 101; CA p. 133).

·        In 1804, New Jersey adopted a mode of gradual emancipation of slaves that was to take effect in 1827.  Slaves born before 1804 were to remain slaves for life.  These remaining slaves were referred to as "colored apprentices for life."  Children of slaves born after July 4, 1804, were "free," but had to remain as servants of their masters until they reached the age of majority.  Females had to labor in this way until age 21 and males until age 25.  In 1850, there were 236 slaves for life in New Jersey.  The 1860 United States census officially enumerated 18 slaves in New Jersey (JRK p. 75; GKW).

·        One of the assumed results of the elimination of slavery in New England was the corresponding and eventual disappearance of New England blacks.  As the number of emancipated blacks in New England grew, so did the discomfort, intolerance and animosity of whites towards them.

"Measures to restrict the participation of free people of color in civic institutions also fall within the rubric of 'negro' removal” such as the "establishment of separate, publicly funded schools for children of color, and the restriction of black suffrage[...] Connecticut and Rhode Island voted outright to rescind the franchise of people of color (in 1818 and 1822, respectively) [...]" (JPM p. 188).


"Explicit strategies to remove people of color physically from communities, states, and nation were already well under way by 1800 and entered a more intense phase around 1820.  One of the most effective means of achieving the end was the examination and "warning-out" of transients, an old practice aimed generally at eliminating impoverished and otherwise undesirable strangers who might become a public expense if allowed to remain in a given town [...]  Charges of "disorderly behavior" were also grounds for warning out and hence instruments of potential removal wielded by town councils [...]


"The records of the Town Council of Providence, Rhode Island, provide a particularly rich source of information on one town's campaign for removal.  After 1785 the council frequently conducted what can only be termed roundups of people of color who were 'likely to become chargeable' and who, if found to lack legal settlement, could be warned out of Providence" (JPM p. 190-91).

"Literal attempts to reduce the black population in New England cities and towns included targeting people of color for "warning out" as undesirables under legal settlement laws; taxing their presence; advocating their wholesale transportation to Africa under the aegis of the American Colonization Society; and, finally, conducting terroristic, armed raids on urban black communities and the institutions that served them" (JPM p. 165).  "By the early 1820s whites had begun to apply a strategy for their physical removal
assaulting their communities, burning down their homes, and attacking their advocates" (JPM p. 199).

·        Close on the heals of efforts to physically remove blacks from New England was an effort to remove them from New England history, or at least formulate a history in which mention of slavery was "revised to emphasis its extreme mildness and brevity and its triumphant early abolition" (JPM p. 210).

"The multitude of real and symbolic efforts to remove people of color from the [historical] narrative and landscape of New England must be understood as a critically important aspect of a larger ideological process:  the emergence of antebellum New England nationalism in the articulation of a regional identity morally and culturally distinct from that of the south" (JPM p. 210).

"Fashioning this narrative was at once an ideological process and a self-conscious strategy for achieving political power.  Its success as a political strategy is evidenced by the fact that the northern states had, in many important ways, become New England writ large by the onset of the Civil War" (JPM p. 211).

"[B]y the outset of actual war in 1861 the New England nationalist trope of virtuous, historical whiteness, clothed as it was in a distinctive set of cultural, moral, and political values associated with New England's Puritan mission and Revolutionary struggle, had come to define the Unionist North as a whole" (JPM p. 224).

"The moral authority asserted by the idea of a free, white New England also served to rationalize the ambitions of many New Englanders and, ultimately, northerners both intellectuals and entrepreneurs to dominate the South commercially and culturally."  This assertion of Northern moral superiority would be a feature in rationalizing the confiscation of Southern property after the War and during Reconstruction.  Ralph Waldo Emerson would later write, "You at once open the whole South to the enterprise & genius of new men of all nations, & extend New England from Canada to the Gulf, et to the Pacific"  (JPM p. 221).

·        After 1815 a "virtual amnesia about [New England] slavery and a kind of perpetual, indignant surprise at the continuing presence of people of color became common ingredients" in the gradual rewriting of New England history to purge any mention of over 150 years of indigenous slavery (JPM p. 219-20).

·        "By 1820 the experience of New England slavery was rapidly disappearing as a frame of reference for discussing the 'problem' of free people of color.  No source of propaganda about a historically white New England was more powerful or more pervasive than the rhetoric of the American Colonization Society.  Constituting people of color as not only undesirable but also culturally and morally anomalous to northern life, colonization rhetoric in New England devoted nearly as much attention to distinguishing the 'white' North, and particularly New England, from a fatally 'colored' South as to the question of removal itself.  Although the New England colonizationists failed to achieve the physical removal of more than a tiny fraction of the population of free people of color from the region, their enormously influential rhetoric, coupled with historical accounts of the earl The Missouri Compromise of 1820, limiting slavery to South of the 36°30' parallel, while couched in terms of slavery, was really a political compromise over a balance of Congressional power between the industrial North and agrarian South.  It was not concerned with the plight of slaves.  Balance was maintained with the new free State of Maine offsetting the new slave State of Missouri.  This debate served to reinforce the sectional consciousness between North and South (WEW p. 352-54).

"The question at issue may be simply stated.  Slavery existed in the territory of Missouri; New England and the North were opposed to the extension of the slave system and were resolved to prevent the admission of any state in which slavery was an institution.  The reasons behind their attitude were not by any means wholly humanitarian.  They were mainly political, and the outgrowth of sectional feeling.  The structure of the agrarian and manorial society of the slave states was very different from that of the urbanized, industrial states of the East.  The Northerners and the New Englanders felt that, with the spread of the slave power, the free states were in danger of being dominated in the direction of national affairs by ideals and purposes which were altogether alien to their own.  It was to their interest, as they conceived the situation, to limit slavery to the states in which it already existed.  Hence, they argued against the admission of Missouri unless it came in as a free state, and they proposed to include a clause to that effect in the act of admission.


"The expansion of the United States made the slavery conflict a struggle for power between the two sections-North and South-advancing westward in parallel lines.  By 1819 the more rapidly growing population of the North gave that section a definite advantage in the lower house of Congress.  The South, faced by that fact, endeavored to keep the balance of power in the Senate." (WEW p. 352-53).

y development of New England that erased the domestic institution of slavery, achieved remarkable success in the symbolic removal of people of color from their place in New England history" (JPM p. 212-13).

·        In spite of the history of the economic luxury of a system of gradual abolition of slavery in the North, abolitionists insisted that slavery be abolished immediately throughout the United States, even though it was still a more integral and vital part of the Southern economy (JRK p. 79-80).  In January of 1831, the famous Boston abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison, urged immediate emancipation of slaves with no compensation to the slaveowners.  Failing this, he advocated secession of the Northern States from the Union.

Labor union leaders sought his attention regarding the slavery-like conditions of Massachusetts cotton mill workers who worked much longer hours that did slaves, and whose meager pay kept them in living conditions worse than those of slaves.  Garrison, bitterly opposed to labor unions, was not interested.  In the first issue of his newspaper the Liberator Garrison lashed out against union organizers for trying to "inflame the minds of our working classes against the more opulent and to persuade them that they are contemned and oppressed by a wealthy aristocracy" (WEW p. 414-15).

·        In 1852 Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe's book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, was published.  Writing from abolitionist stereotypes, Mrs. Stowe had never been to the South and had no first-hand knowledge of slavery.  Nonetheless, her book filled the imaginations of Northerners with evil white Southerners "who beat thousand-dollar negro slaves to death for the fun of it" (WEW p. 466).

·        As the emancipation of slaves began in the North during the late eighteenth century, "black codes" were adopted,  enacting a form of "racial cleansing" to prevent blacks from cohabiting with Northern white society and, due in part to the horror stories of slave uprisings in the Americas, to "protect themselves from the dangers posed by free blacks" (CA p. 130).  The enacting of "black codes" continued throughout the North.  Also seen as a threat to white laborers, blacks were widely disenfranchised in Northern States, especially during the 1850s and 60s.  Free blacks not only had restrictions placed on opportunities to earn a living, but also upon opportunities for education, for the privilege to vote, and even whether they could legally reside in a given State (JRK p. 55-57, 77; CA p. 130, 133; BBM p. 170-72).  For example:

o       As documented above, New Jersey and Massachusetts had had long placed similar restrictions on blacks (JRK p. 55).

o       In 1851, the Indiana constitution was changed to state, "no negro or mulatto shall come into or settle in the state [...]" (JRK p. 55; BBM p. 171).

o       1853 Illinois law prevented "the immigration of free negroes into this State."  In 1862, the citizens of Illinois amended their State constitution to say, "No Negro or mulatto shall immigrate or settle in this state [...]" (JRK p. 55, 77; CA p. 130; BBM p. 171).

o       Oregon's constitution, adopted on November 9, 1857, stated, "[n]o free negroe or mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall come, reside or be within this state [...]" (JRK p. 55; BBM p. 172). Restrictions also prohibited blacks from owning property, making contracts or filing lawsuits (CA p. 130).

Ironically, Southern blacks who fought for the North in the War for Southern Independence were prevented from residing in Northern States after the War because of these same black codes (CA p. 150).

·        Taking advantage of the fervor over slavery in the territories and the highly explosive Kansas-Nebraska Act (WEW p. 474-75), the Republican Party was officially organized in 1854 at Jackson, Michigan.  It was made up of the Whig Party remnant (largely Henry Clay's "American system" of mercantilism embracing a National Bank, government subsidies for railroad, shipping and canal-building, protectionist tariffs (WEW p. 461, 466; CA p.61; TJD p. 54-56)), Know-Nothings (anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, anti-German socialism (WEW p. 462-64; SEM p. 590)), Free-Soilers (opposed to the expansion of slavery into the new territories "to defend Northern farmers, wage-earners, and lovers of liberty against further wars and the encroachment of 'slave power'" (SEM p. 567)) and abolitionists.  However, behind the scenes, party organizers were more intent in controlling the national government to "obtain federal subsidies for railroads and steamship lines, and have their own way with the currency, the public lands and the tariff."  Since their view was not represented, abolitionist interests had to be content with the Free-Soiler position for now (WEW p. 466-67).

·        An ardent Whig Party member and disciple of Henry Clay's "American System" of federal economic intervention through subsidized "internal improvements," protective tariffs and centralized banking, Lincoln switched to the Republican Party with the death of the Whig Party.  His strong advocacy of the American System and its lifeblood of tariff revenue would be instrumental in his willingness to go to war in reaction to Southern secession (TJD p. 54-60).

·        Speaking on October 16, 1854 in Peoria, Illinois, Lincoln acknowledged the difficulty facing white society of the day in abolishing slavery.  He also voiced what he saw as the likely solution over time - gradual emancipation and then sending blacks in the United States to Liberia, Africa.

      “When Southern people tell us that they are no more responsible for the origin of slavery than we are, I acknowledge the fact.  When it is said that the institution exists and that it is very difficult to get rid of it in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying [...] If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do as to the existing institution.  My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia – their native land [...] We cannot make them equals.  It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their tardiness in this I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the South” (BBM p. 184).

·        While some in the North decried slavery, Northern and European consumer and industrial demand and Northern financiers kept slavery viable in the South.  The English received over 80% of exported American cotton and employed about four hundred thousand workers in their cotton mills (WEW p. 526).

·        Unlike most leading politicians of the day, some abolitionists were unwilling to compromise on the issue of slavery, even to the point of dissolving the Union.  In 1856 abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison proclaimed,

"This Union is a lie!  The American Union is an imposition – a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell!  [...]  I am for its overthrow!  [...]  Up with the flag of disunion, that we may have a free and glorious Republic of our own; and when the hour shall come, the hour will have arrived that shall witness the overthrow of slavery" (SDC p. 56, 100).

·        Where the abolitionist speeches, sermons and editorials left off, fanatical abolitionist, John Brown, picked up.  He didn't hesitate to spill the blood of slaveholders and others as necessary to do his part in eradicating slavery.

o       On May 24, 1856, Brown led a raid on Pottawatomie, Kansas in which five unarmed men were dragged from their beds at night and murdered because of their pro-slavery views (WEW p. 476; SEM p. 601).

o       Brown sought to form a republic of fugitive slaves in the Appalachians from which war would be waged against those States in which slavery was still legal (WEW p. 501; SEM p. 601).  On October 16, 1859, Brown led his invasion into Virginia to seize the United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry.  As part of his plan, he would distribute the captured arms to the many blacks that Brown thought would eagerly join in the uprising.  To his bewilderment, no blacks came to his side.  Even the few slaves he came in contact with at a nearby plantation would have nothing to do with him.  Ironically, the first man killed in the raid was a free black man who was shot while running away after Brown's men had ordered him to stop.  Brown was captured by a detachment of United States troops under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee on October 17.  He was tried for treason, murder, and conspiracy with slaves to rebel and found guilty.  He was hanged on December 2, 1859.  Abolitionists now had a martyr, and Southern fears were ignited (WEW p. 501-02; SEM p. 602, 605).

·        The South held its breath as it awaited Northern opinion over John Brown's execution.  While most Northern opinion was against Brown, a few prominent voices began to raise him up as a saintly martyr.

o       Ralph Waldo Emerson fueled Southern fears as he wrote, "That new saint, than whom nothing purer or more brave was ever led by love of men into conflict and death [...] will make the gallows glorious like the cross" (SEM p. 602).

o       Some Northern newspapers also contributed to the mounting North-South tension after Brown's execution.  The Fort Atchison, Wisconsin Standard was typical of the outbreak of Northern abolitionist sympathy of Brown.


"John Brown Dead – The first act in the tragedy has been performed.  The great State of Virginia has played the hangman's part, and is crowned with its bloody honors [...] No mercy was expected for the victim of southern vengeance.  But the end is not yet [...] A wall of bayonets may guard the hideous bastile of cruelty and wrong, but cannot obstruct the march of the free legions that will spring forth from their slumber, and make the earth tremble beneath their tread.


"Now may God help the right ! and give us tongues of fire, and hands that shall never weary, to wage an eternal crusade against the diabolical sin of slavery.


"Peaceful be the sleep of the murdered Brown, and glorious his awakening" (SDC p. 65).

·        During the fourth Lincoln-Douglas debate on September 18, 1858, in Charleston, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln emphatically stated his view of the role blacks in American society.

"I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races; that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters of the free negroes, or jurors, or qualifying them to hold office, or having them marry with white people.  I will say in addition that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which, I suppose, will forever forbid the two races living together upon terms of social and political equality; and inasmuch as they cannot so live, that while they do remain together, there must be the position of the superiors and the inferiors; and that I, as much as any other man, am in favor of the superior position assigned to the white man" (WEW p. 500; JRK p. 27; MLR p. 113).

·        In 1861, John Hughes, Archbishop of New York, warned the U.S. War Department that his flock was "willing to fight to the death for the support of the constitution, the government, and the laws of the country, [but not] for the abolition of slavery" (SEM p. 666).

·        English author Charles Dickens, an avid student of the forces behind America's War of 1861, and an opponent of slavery, made the following observation in an article entitled "American Disunion" in the December 21, 1861, issue of his London periodical, All the Year Round:

"The struggle between North and South has been of long duration.  The South having the lead in the federation had fought some hard political battles to retain it...  But in the last presidential election, which was a trial of strength between South and North, the South considering itself subject to the North within the federation, carried out its frequent threat and desire of secession" (CA p. 88).

Dickens biographer, Peter Ackroyd, reiterated Dickens' view on the popular opinion regarding slavery and the war:

"The Northern onslaught upon slavery was no more than a piece of specious humbug designed to conceal its desire for economic control of the Southern states" (CA p. 89).

·        In his December 28, 1861, All the Year Round follow-up article entitled "The Morrill Tariff," Dickens summarized his observations of the harmful effects of protectionist tariffs on the Southern economy being at the root of the North-South conflict:

"If it be not slavery, where lies the partition of the interests that has led at last to actual separation of the Southern from the Northern States?  [...] Every year, for some years back, this or that Southern state had declared that it would submit to this extortion only while it had not the strength for resistance.  With the election of Lincoln and an exclusive Northern party taking over the federal government, the time for withdrawal had arrived [...] The conflict is between semi-independent communities [in which] every feeling and interest [in the South] calls for political partition, and every pocket interest [in the North] calls for union [...] [T]he quarrel between the North and South is, as it stands, solely a fiscal quarrel" (CA p. 90-91).

·        Union soldiers from New York on patrol out of Newport News, Virginia on December 22, 1861, were attacked by local Confederate forces near Newport Bridge.  The attacking Confederate force was made up of cavalry and 700 armed blacks.  Local Confederate fighting units were often formed during times of Union raids, and then were disbanded until needed again (ELJ p. 222).

·        Contrary to fellow Englishman Charles Dickens' assessment of the War – and Article 1, Section 9, clause 1, Confederate States Constitution – John Stuart Mill, in his February 1862 Fraser's Magazine article, "The Contest in America," asserted that the underlying motivation of the South's secession was an ambitious plan to extend slavery throughout the Caribbean and the Americas, from "the Potomac to Cape Horn," and to reestablish the world slave trade (CA p. 92).  This contention of Mills' would prove useful to Lincoln as he later sought to add a moral dimension to his war on the South.  Mills' sentiments would also prove to be influential as the popular history of the War was written (CA p. 96).

·        In a message to Congress on March 6, 1862, Lincoln proposed compensation to the owners of slaves in any state – including those in the South – that would emancipate its slaves.  This would have been consistent with how many of the slaves were freed in Northern States.  Both Lincoln's Cabinet and Congress rejected the proposal (WEW p. 543).  However, Congress did pass an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia.  Lincoln signed the act on April 16, 1862.  Owners were compensated up to $300 apiece for their liberated slaves (WEW p. 543-44; SDC p. 175).

·        To the surprise of many Yankee soldiers, many Southern blacks were not slaves.  Knowing of the South only through stereotypes and often thinking that all Southern blacks were slaves, Yankee soldiers sometimes accused free blacks of hiding their masters, especially if the person's home were nicely furnished.  During such encounters, the Yankees would often steal the free black person's food and belongings, and even destroy their homes (JRK p. 133-34).

·        The loyalty of Southern blacks in the presence of Yankee soldiers was varied.  Some slaves went over to the Union troops, while others remained loyal to their white families (JRK p. 133-34).  Rarely, though, did Southern blacks give Yankee soldiers their complete trust (ELJ p. 143).

·        Union soldiers reporting on the June, 1862 battle of Seven Pines claimed that two black Confederate regiments proved themselves ruthless opponents, showing no mercy to either dead or wounded Yankee soldiers (ELJ p. 223).

·        The wife of Union general Ulysses S. Grant, a slave owner herself, kept her slaves until the close of the War (WEW p. 518, 543).

·        In a letter dated August 22, 1862, to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln said,

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave 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" (GE p. 218; SCV p. 5-6).

·        On August 25, 1862, Lincoln wrote a letter to Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune in which he again stated,

"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" (WEW p. 508).

·        During the battle of Antietam in September of 1862, fully armed black Confederate soldiers were observed as an integral part of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia (ELJ p. 223).

·        Since slavery was secure under the United States Constitution, many observers sought to uncover the real reason that slavery was cited by many Southern leaders as a cause for secession.  The October 1862 edition of the Boston North American Review contended that "Slavery is not the cause of the rebellion" and accused Southern politicians of using slavery as an additional ploy "to fire the Southern heart" in generating support for secession.  The article accused "Mr. Calhoun, after finding that the South could not be brought into sufficient unanimity by a clamor about the tariff, selected slavery as the better subject for agitation" (CA p. 4-6).

·        In December of 1862, Lincoln sought to alleviate the fears that emancipated slaves would come into the North and compete for the labor of white workers by assuring Congress that each State can "decide for itself whether to receive them" (JRK p. 55; BBM p. 173).

·        With the war losing its popularity in the North in 1862, the people of the North were not so willing to send their husbands and sons to die in "Mr. Lincoln's war" to restore the Union, let alone for the emancipation of slaves (WEW p. 544).

·        It was not until well into the War that Lincoln began to link abolition of slavery with the War itself.  He resorted to using the issue of slavery as a political tool to give the War a moral cause to possibly help bolster Northern support for the War, distance England and France from the South and solidify his support with the growing abolitionist movement. The measure might also disrupt agricultural production in the South and possibly even foster a slave revolt.  Upon issuing his Emancipation Proclamation as a military measure under his assumed war powers on September 22, 1862, Lincoln made assurances that slavery would be safe in "rebel" states that returned to the Union and that he would again try to convince Congress to compensate returning slave states wanting to adopt measures of emancipation.  After one hundred days the Proclamation would be enforced militarily in those states that did not return to the Union.

Lincoln signed the Proclamation into effect on January 1, 1863.  Only slaves in those States that remained outside of the Union were declared to be free.  Those still enslaved in Northern or otherwise Union States (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri) were not freed by Lincoln's proclamation since he knew he could not constitutionally deprive United States citizens of their "property."  Exemptions from Lincoln's proclamation included "the parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. Johns, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans [...] the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth," much of Tennessee, the South Carolina coast, and any other areas of the Southern States under Union control. Not one slave was actually freed through Lincoln's proclamation (WEW p. 545; SEM p. 654; ELJ p. 255; PMA p. 263-66; TJD p. 35-38; CA p. 135).


Therefore, contrary to popular belief, Lincoln did not "free the slaves."  Emancipation of the slaves throughout the North and South was due to the ratification of the current Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by both the Northern and Southern States.  Only in this way could an acknowledged internal matter of the States be constitutionally dealt with at the federal level – that is, with the States delegating authority that had been previously reserved by them.  Constitutionally, this was not a matter for Lincoln and the Executive branch of the federal government.

·        The Conscription Act of March 3, 1863, forced Northern men into service through a military draft.  The draft was biased against the poor in that a man could pay $300 to commute his service for a particular draft.  A man could also find a permanent substitute to serve in his place through a three-year enlistment.  Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the bringing in of black workers to break a dock workers' strike brought Irish immigrants in New York City to the boiling point.  The first drawing of names for the draft in the working-class quarters on July 13, 1863, sparked four days of riots in New York City.  Blacks, having been blamed for the loss of jobs and the reason for the existence of the draft, were indiscriminately killed or beaten (SEM p. 666).

·        In May 1865, Confederate POWs held at Point Lookout, Maryland were being released if they took oaths of allegiance to the United States.  A lone black Confederate soldier refused the oath, remaining "unreconstructed and unreconstructable."  Historian Ervin L. Jordan laments the denial of the existence and role of black Confederates, and their being consigned to the obscurity shared by those blacks who served in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 (ELJ p. 251).



BBM Virginia's Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, Second Edition by Beverley B. Munford, 1910.  Reprinted by Crown Rights Publishing, Dahlonega, Georgia, 2001.  (A look at the many contributing factors in the secession of the Southern States and of the War that followed.)

CA When in the Course of Human Events by Charles Adams, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Lanham, Ma.  2000. (A look at the case for Southern secession and the execution of the war by the North.)

CKB Black Confederates Compiled and Edited by Charles Kelly Barrow, J. H. Segars, and R. B. Rosenburg, Pelican Publishing Co., 2001.  Originally published as Forgotten Confederates, 1995.  (A fascinating compilation of first-hand accounts, newspaper articles, photographs, and letters documenting service to the Confederacy by blacks in military

and non-military capacities.)

ELJ Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia by Ervin L. Jordan, Jr., The University Press of Virginia, 1995.  (A fascinating work documenting the lives of and roles of blacks in "Civil War" Virginia.)

FWS War for What? by Francis W. Springer, Nippert Publishing, Springfield, TN, Second Printing 1997.  (A history of slavery in North America.)

GE Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the War on the South 1861-1865 by George Edmonds, Science Hall Lamb, 1904.  Reprinted by Crown Rights Publishing, Wiggins, Miss., 2000.  (A compelling view of the politics of the War for Southern Independence.)

GKW New Jersey Slavery and the Law, Gary K. Wolinetz, Rutgers Law Review, 50 (Summer 1998): 2227 ff

GLD America's Caesar - Abraham Lincoln and the Birth of a Modern Empire by Greg Loren Durand, Second Edition, 2000.  (A very revealing inquiry into Lincoln's role in radically altering the original relationship and roles of the federal government versus that of the States during the War for Southern Independence.)

JLMC The Southern States of the American Union by J.L.M. Curry, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1895.  Reprinted by Crown Rights Publishing, Wiggins, Miss., 1999.  (Traces the origins of the spirit of liberty expressed in the Declaration of Independence, and in the South's secession from the Northern States of the American Union.)

JPM Disowning Slavery, Gradual Emancipation and "Race" in New England, 1780-1860 by Joanne Pope Melish, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1998.  Examines the neglected importance of New England slavery in shaping that regions view both of themselves and of the South.

JRK The South Was Right! by James Ronald Kennedy and Walter Donald Kennedy, 1998.  (A fascinating and well-footnoted look into little known facts critical in understanding the War for Southern Independence.)

MLD The Confederate Constitution of 1861 by Marshall L. DeRosa, University of Missouri Press, 1991.  (A good look at the intentions of the C.S.A by looking at their own Constitution and the few, but significant differences between it and its U.S. counterpart.)

MLR Truths of History by Mildred Lewis Rutherford, Athens, Georgia, 1920.  Reprinted by Southern Lion Books, Inc., Atlanta, Ga., 1998.  (One Southerner's blunt perspective of the War in historical and cultural context.)

PBK The Founder's Constitution, edited by Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner, the University of Chicago Press, 1986.  (A collection of documents from the early 1600s to 1830 that shed light on the philosophies behind our American form of government.)

PMA By These Words by Paul M. Angle, Rand McNally & Co., 1954.  (Text of selected documents of American history.)

SCV The Gray Book Published by Gray Book Committee S.C.V., The Sons of Confederate Veterans.  Reprinted by Crown Rights Publishing, Wiggins, Miss., 2000.  (A defense in response to "attacks upon the history, people and institutions of this Southern section of our united country.")

SDC The Logic of History by Stephen D. Carpenter, S. D. Carpenter, Publisher, Madison, Wis., 1864.  Reprinted by Crown Rights Publishing, Wiggins, Miss., 2000.  (A collection of news accounts and analysis pertaining to the War.)

SEM The Oxford History of the American People by Samual Eliot Morison, Oxford University Press, New York, 1965.  (A useful reference, but with a strong central government and "pro-union" bias.  Also somewhat colored by the social atmosphere of the 1960s.)

SF The Civil War, A Narrative - Fort Sumter to Perryville by Shelby Foote, Vintage Books, New York, 1986 (A standard of the history of the War.)

TJD The Real Lincoln, A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War by Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Prima Publishing, Roseville, California, 2002 (A well researched look at Lincoln's role in the transition in the United States away from the original limited Federal form of government toward one with more centralized Hamiltonian powers, and also the implementation of the "American System")

WEW A New American History by W. E. Woodward, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., On Murry Hill, New York, 1936.  (Excellent.  Balanced, with more attention to detail than many works and quite interesting to read.)


First published footnoted edition August 2, 2001
Last updated on October 18, 2005