The Civil History Of The Confederate States
THE political history of the Confederate States of America somewhat distinctly begins in 1850 with "the Settlement" of sectional agitation by the Compromise measures of that year, enacted by the Congress of the United States, approved by the President, confirmed by decisions of the Supreme court, endorsed in resolutions, political platforms and general elections by the people. The "Settlement" thus solemnly ordained by and among the States composing the Union, became equal in moral and political force, to any part of the Constitution of the United States. Its general object was to carry out the preamble to the Constitution, viz.: "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." Its avowed special object was to settle forever all the disturbing, sectional agitations concerning slave labor, so as to leave that question where the Constitution had placed it, subject to the operation of humanity, moral law, economic law, natural law and the laws of the States. Its patriotic purpose was to eliminate sectionalism from the politics of the whole country.
Grave questions of sectional nature had arisen during the colonial period on which the colonies North and the colonies South divided by their respective sections. The original division of the British territorial possessions on the American continent into the geographical designations, North and South, occurred historically in the grants made by King James, 1606; the first to the London Company of the territory south of the 38th degree north latitude, and the other to the Plymouth Colony of the territory north of the 41st degree north latitude. Both grants extended westward to an indefinite boundary. The Plymouth Settlement afterward subdued the Dutch possessions lying to the south, thus including that territory in the general term North. The settlements of Delaware and Maryland covered the areas lying north of Virginia and they were embraced in the section termed South. The general line of division, somewhat indistinct, lay between the 38th and the 39th degrees north latitude. The Mason and Dixon line---39 43' 26"--was established by subsequent surveys and was designed to settle certain boundary disputes. In the eighteenth century the original partition of King James was changed by various grants and the English possessions were also extended far down the Atlantic coast by grants of the Carolinas and Georgia. The original "Old South" extended by all these grants along the Atlantic shore from the south line of Georgia to the north of Delaware, and westward from that wide ocean front certainly to the French possessions on the Mississippi river, including the territory of Virginia in the northwest and embracing a vast area of the best part of America; but by proper construction of these and other original charters which made the western limit "the South sea," meaning the Pacific ocean, the vast domain of the Old South embraced also all Texas and much of the territory acquired from Mexico.
The rivalry of the colonies included in these two sections in their struggle for population, commerce, wealth and general influence in American affairs, arose early and continued during the century preceding the American Revolution, each section becoming accustomed to a geographical and sectional grouping of colonies and each striving to advance its own local interests. Thus the colonies of both sections grew robustly as separate organizations into the idea of free statehood, but at the same time fostered the dangerous jealousies of sections. The sectional spirit grew alongside the development of colonial statehood. The colonies north became a group of Northern States, and the colonies south a group of Southern States.
The conflict with Great Britain, which had been long impending, brought the sections together in a common cause as against the external enemy, but the achievement of the independence of the several colonies was accompanied by the quick return of the old antagonism which had previously divided them into geographic sections. The loose Union, which had been created pending the Revolutionary war, through Articles of Confederation, was found inefficient to control or even to direct the irrepressible conflict of opposing or emulating interests. Hence the Constitution of the United States was substituted for the Articles of Confederation and "a more perfect Union" was ordained, expressly to prevent or at least to modify sectional conflicts by the constitutional pledge to promote domestic tranquillity and provide for the general welfare.
During all these struggles of the colonies among themselves, caused by commercial rivalries, the slavery of any part of the population was not the cause of dangerous disagreement anywhere. The British colonies were all slave-holding. Negroes were bought and sold in Boston and New York as well as in Richmond or Savannah. The Declaration of Independence, written by Jefferson, who was opposed to slavery, and concurred in by the committee of which Adams, Sherman, Livingston and Franklin, all Northern men, were members, made no declaration against slavery and no allusion to it, except to charge the King of Great Britain with the crime of exciting domestic insurrection. In framing the Constitution all sectional differences, including the subject of slavery, were compromised. "The compromises on the slavery question inserted in the Constitution were," as Mr. Blaine correctly remarks, "among the essential conditions upon which the Federal government was organized." (Twenty Years, vol. I, p. 1.)
Sectional conflicts, subsequent to the formation of the Constitution from which the Union resulted, were also mainly caused by similar commercial rivalries and ambitions for political advantage. The maintenance of the political equilibrium between the North and the South occupied at all times the anxious thought of patriotic statesmen. In the contests which threatened this equality slavery was not the only nor at first the main disturbing cause. It was not the question in the war of 1812 upon which the States were divided into sections North and South, nor in the purchase of Louisiana Territory, as the debates show; the real ground of opposition being the fear that this vast territory would transfer political power southward, which was evidenced by Josiah Quincy's vehement declaration of his "alarm that six States might grow up beyond the Mississippi." Nor was the acquisition of Florida advocated or opposed because of slavery. The tariff issue, out of which the nullification idea arose, was decidedly on a question of just procedure in raising revenue, and not on slavery. The question was made suddenly and lamentably prominent in the application of Missouri to be admitted into the Union, but the agitation which then threatened the peace of the country was quelled by the agreement upon the dividing line of 36 deg. 30'. "The Missouri question marked a distinct era in the political thought of the country, and made a profound impression on the minds of patriotic men. Suddenly, without warning, the North and the South found themselves arrayed against each other in violent and absorbing conflict." The annexation of Texas was urged because it increased the area of the Union, and was opposed because its addition to the States gave preponderance to the South.
Thus it is seen that the early sectional rivalries had no vital connection with slavery, and it will appear that its extinction will not of itself extinguish the fires that have so long burned between North and South. The great American conflict began through a geographical division of America made by the cupidity of an English king. It was continued for financial, economic, commercial and political reasons. A false idea of duality--a North and South--in the United States has been deeply rooted in the American mind.
To understand the causes which produced the Confederate States of America, all the various incidents which successively agitated the fears of either section that the other would gain an advantage, must be held steadily in view. This sectional ambition to secure and maintain the preponderance of political power operated through various incidents in colonial times, then in those which attended the formation of the Constitution, also in subsequent incidents--such as the location of the capital; the appropriations of money for internal improvements; the war of 1812; the acquisition of Southern territory; the tariff issue and the distribution of government offices and patronage. One after another of these controversies subsiding, a period approached when slavery itself became the main incident of this long-continued sectional rivalry. Slavery, on coming so conspicuously into notice as to be the main ground of contention between North and South, was, therefore, regarded as the chief distraction to be removed by the settlement effected in 1850.
Briefly stating the case in 1850, let it be considered that the old sectional differences on account of commercial rivalry and political supremacy had at length become hostilities, which for the first time seriously threatened the Union of the States. Let it also be understood that the agitation which immediately preceded the settlement of 1850 was caused directly by differences of views as to the proper disposition of the national institution of slavery.
The statesmen of 1850 knew the following facts: The United States had indorsed the existence of slavery and authorized the importation of enslaved Africans: the colonies, separately acting previous to their Union, had established the institution in their labor systems. The European governments which held paramount authority over the colonies had originated it. The chiefs of African tribes enforced it by their wars, and profited by it in the sale of their captives to foreigners. The world at large practiced it in some form. Thus the African kings, the governments of Europe and America, the ship owners, slave traders, speculators and pioneers of the New World conspired to initiate a wrong, from which a retribution at length followed, in which the innocent slave with his last Southern owner suffered more than all the guilty parties who had profited by his bondage.
The hardy and adventurous settlers in the American colonies permitted themselves after occasional protests, such as occurred in Virginia, and afterward in Georgia, to be seduced into the buying of negroes from the artful and avaricious slave traders of England, Holland and New England. The importations, however, were few, because the European possessions in the semi-tropics were the first takers of this species of property. Tidings of the evils of the system in its barbarous stages, and stories all too true of the horrors of the middle passage aboard the ships of the inhuman slave importers, made the colonies reluctant to engage in the traffic. Nevertheless, the colonies experimented with this form of labor, Massachusetts beginning in 1638 and South Carolina thirty. three years later, and the conclusion was reached before the close of the eighteenth century that the slavery system of labor could be made useful in some latitudes, but could not be made profitable in all sections of America. Therefore, Massachusetts, following a Canadian precedent, abolished slavery after being' a slave holding State over a hundred years, and soon after the American Revolution several States in the higher latitudes, all included in the old North Section of the original Plymouth colony, adopted the same policy.
But it will be observed that generally this Northern abolition was to take effect after lapse of time, and thus notice was given to the owners sufficient to enable them, if so disposed, to sell their property to purchasers living farther South who still found such labor remunerative. Some availed themselves of this privilege and converted their slaves into other more productive property. Some were conscientious or were attached to their negroes and, therefore, cheerfully gave them freedom. Others were philanthropic enough to keep the old and infirm, who on reaching liberation would be cared for by the State, only selling the young and the strong for a good price. Through these sales and the continuance of the slave trade, both foreign and domestic, the people in the Southern States were induced to invest their money largely in negroes, thus greatly increasing the population of that class within the boundaries of those States.
In all these changes of the labor system--this abolishing of slavery in several States--the moral side of the question does not appear to have had the uppermost consideration. The moral question certainly did have influence in Massachusetts and to some extent in other States; but the main reason for this early emancipation was the commercial and social disadvantages of slavery. As the South is said to have been awakened to the immorality and the blighting hindrances of slavery to its prosperity, after emancipation was enforced by armies, so the North saw the same immorality and general hurt to the Union only after proofs of the unprofitableness of the institution to that section. Both sections abolished slavery under duress---one under duress of unprofitableness, the other vi et armis.
The law of profit and loss controlled the origin and extension of slavery; sectional rivalries seized upon it as an incident in the strife for supremacy; political party purpose at length found it to be an available means to partisan successes, and the moral side of it shone forth upon the whole nation only after a bloody war between the old sections. Eyes were opened by the shock of battle. The moral sense stood godfather to "military necessity."
At the organization of the United States, slave-holding was legal everywhere in the Union except in Massachusetts, because at that time it bore some profit everywhere. It is a suggestion of Mr. Greeley in his American Conflict "that the importation of Africans in slave ships profited New England;" the labor of the slaves thus imported at a profit was valuable to their owners who bought them from the slave traders, and also to the manufacturers and sellers of the products of their toil. Trading in human flesh was, therefore, insisted on as a proper business demanding constitutional enforcement for twenty years. The following States voted for the continuance of the slave trade for twenty years until 1808: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The following voted nay: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia.
Slave labor, therefore, must be treated historically as an institution sustained by the Constitution of the United States; the domestic trade in slaves, as a business sanctioned by that august instrument; and the foreign slave trade--to which the chief ignominy of the institution attaches--as a traffic expressly protected against the wishes of the majority of the States holding slaves. Each State was left by the Constitution with full power to dispose of the institution as it might choose, and the territory acquired as common property was open to settlement by slave-holders with their property. The African bondsman was classed as property by United States law. He was property to be acquired, held, sold, delivered on bills of sale which evidenced title. He could be bequeathed, donated, sold as part of an estate, or for debt, like any other property. The Federal and State governments derived revenue from his labor. For over a century the Southern States were encouraged to invest in him and his race as property. Not one government, European, Asian or African, declared against the enslavement of the negro by the United States; and not one State among those which had fought together to gain a common independence of England refused to enter the Union on account of the constitutional recognition and encouragement of the institution. If there be any wrong in all their action, the South was not more responsible for it than their Northern associates in what has been called the great crime of the United States.
The evils of slavery, its wrong of any character, moral or political, were the result of an international cooperative action, and of an agreement among the States of the Union, the original motive of which was the cupidity of powerful African tribes and Caucasian slave dealers with the subsequent motive of profit and loss to the buyer. Such being its historical origin, it will be seen that the subsequent effort to destroy it was not mainly moral but partisan, and that the blow which struck it down fell on the lawful holders of inherited property, and was struck by the people of the Old World and the New, whose ancestors first inflicted the great wrong against humanity.
The labor of the negro being more profitable in the mild climate, and on the more fertile and cheaper land of the South, his transference from the bleaker clime and less generous as well as higher priced soil of New England became commercially inevitable. The negro became unsalable where he was at first enslaved. He brought a good price south of 36 deg. 30', and hence by the course of interstate commerce many thousands (not all, but thousands) of this class of national property changed owners as well as States, the original masters taking the purchase money to reinvest in land, merchandise, factories, stocks and bonds or other prudent ventures, while the new master invested in the coerced labor which cut down his forests and tilled his soil, holding the laborer "bound to service" under the laws of his State made pursuant to the Constitution of the United States.
The same commercial considerations which induced the enslavement of the unfortunate African caused his sale and removal from those sections of the Union where his enslavement was found to be unprofitable and his presence at least a social inconvenience. Accordingly the steady deportation of the race southward began during the close of the eighteenth century and was accelerated through the early years of the nineteenth century. The slave market was opened in the city of Washington and other Southern cities. Traders bought in Northern markets and sold for profit in the Southern. The domestic slave trade was thus inaugurated to compete with the African slave trade then in full blast and which could not be suppressed by any Southern State until the year 1808. Now and then a Southern State endeavored to hinder the infamous traffic, but the ship owners and slave traders were shielded by the supreme law of the land. The United States government was meanwhile entitled to revenue at the rate of $10 for each imported African. All the powers of the Union were put in operation to induce the people of the Southern States to invest their capital in this species of property. From this review of the slavery evil, it appears that the States in the South cannot be charged with the responsibility of its introduction, nor for the continuance of the slave trade, nor for the extension of it by the increase of negro population in the South, nor for the agitations which on this account disturbed the harmony of the sections, nor for the bloody mode adopted for its extinction.
Jefferson Davis said: "War was not necessary to the abolition of slavery. Years before the agitation began at the North and the menacing acts to the institution, there was a growing feeling all over the South for its abolition. But the abolitionists of the North, both by publications and speech, cemented the South and crushed the feeling in favor of emancipation. Slavery could have been blotted out without the sacrifice of brave men and without the strain which revolution always makes upon established forms of government. I see it stated that I uttered the sentiment, or indorsed it, that 'slavery is the corner stone of the Confederacy.' That is not my utterance." "It is not conceivable," said General Stephen D. Lee, in 1897, "that the statesmen of the Union were incompetent to dispose of slavery without war."
It will become clear to any who will conservatively reflect on the conditions existing at the beginning of the present century, that if the opposition to slavery had been firmly based on the principle that it was a violation of the first law of human brotherhood, and also on its breach of the economic principle that enforced labor should not compete with the labor of the free citizen--if the appeal for its discontinuance had been made to the public conscience and the private sense of right, and the just claims of honest free labor, the institution would have passed away in less than a generation from the date of the Declaration of Independence. Had all the New England States, with all other Northern slave-holding States, in 1776 (following the course of Massachusetts) abolished slavery without the sale of a single slave; had the slave trade been discontinued as the Southern States (except Georgia and South Carolina) desired; had the views of Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina been fostered and made effective by Northern hearty cooperation, it is entirely reasonable to believe that the freedom of all the slaves would have been rapidly secured.
An emancipation measure was proposed in the Virginia Legislature as late as 1832 and discussed. The general course of the debate shows a readiness in that day to give freedom to negroes, and was of such strength that a motion to postpone with a view to ascertain the wishes of the people was carried by a vote of 65 to 58. In Delaware, Maryland and Kentucky legislation leading to emancipation had already been under consideration. North Carolina and Tennessee contained large populations of whites averse to slavery, and no doubt exists as to the action of those States at any time during the first years of the century. The Louisiana and Florida purchase and the Texas annexation having not yet taken place, and nearly the entire West and Southwest being a wild, the question of emancipation with moderate compensation would have easily prevailed through the South. The barrier in the beginning was the profitable sale of the slaves from Northern States, and from the slave trade carried on in the ships of foreign nations and New England, and the commercial advantage of the trade in the products of slave labor.
The interests of all Southern States except South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, only thirty years prior to the election of Lincoln, lay on the side of emancipation. The first named States were alone dependent for their development on the labor of the slave, and even in those States only their Southern areas demanded slave labor. The northern parts of these five States were even then better adapted to free white labor. In the light of the years which close this century, it is seen that no part of the South was dependent on slave labor, and that such supposed dependence was imaginary, not real. Therefore, it may be fairly inferred from the sentiment of the South in the beginning of this century, from the conditions of labor and commerce then existing, from the political considerations then at work, the South, in the first years of this century, would have begun the emancipation of its slaves upon a plan of compensation to the owner, justice to the negro and safety to society, had not the interests of other sections demanded the continuance of the domestic and foreign trade in man.
The period of twenty years granted by the Constitution for the continuance of the slave trade, was occupied actively in the importation of Africans throughout the Atlantic Southern States. During the same period the invention of the cotton gin increased vastly the commercial value of negro labor, not only to the producer, but most of all to the shipper and manufacturer of cotton. As a consequence, " the prosperity and commercial importance of a half dozen rising communities, the industrial and social order of a growing empire, the greatest manufacturing interest of manufacturing England, a vast capital, the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of free artisans, rested on American slavery." This new condition occurred at the period when the South was protesting against the African slave trade, and was exhibiting an increasing willingness to continue the emancipation movement, which had previously extended southward as far as Delaware, and had induced Virginia to include the anti-slavery clause in its great cession of Northwestern Territory. But the outlook of the cotton trade and the immense business arising from the increased production and manufacture of the staple were so beneficial to vast numbers in England and the United States, that the emancipation sentiment died down un. der the pressure of commercial considerations not only in the Cotton States, but also in the manufacturing and commercial centers of the world. (Greg's History, 351.) After the year 1808 (cessation of the legalized slave trade) the national increase of the enslaved race exceeded in percentage that of any free people on earth. Freed from care, fed, clothed and sheltered for the sake of their labor, protected from hurtful indulgence and worked with regularity--the physical conditions were all favorable to increase in numbers, stature, longevity and strength. It is clearly just to admit that such an improvement in the race imported from the African wilds undoubtedly proves the humanity with which these captured bondsmen were treated by the people of the United States.
It was this commercial value of the slave to the Southern planters of cane, cotton, rice and tobacco, and to the Northern and European shippers, manufacturers, merchants and operatives--a value caused by the crude, elementary materials of wealth which negro labor produced --a value that grew in great proportions for commerce--a value that began to assume political importance because of the power that it gave the slave-holding States---it was this factor which on the one hand blinded many in all sections to those moral and economic fallacies on which African slavery really rested, and on the other hand finally excited political jealousy and sectional fears of the power which the Southern section might acquire in the control of the Union.
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