The American Civil War and Its Relationship
Students often argue that slavery
was not a cause of the Civil War. This is a list of Documentary sources
that speak for themselves. The South Carolina Declaration of Causes of
Secession and the 1861 remarks of Confederate Alexander H. Stephens clearly
give the southern position during the time of the war.
TheWilmot Proviso, 1846
Hinton Helper, The Impending Crisis, 1850
Resolutions of the Nashville Convention, 1850
George Fitzhugh, "Southern Thought," 1856
Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857
Abraham Lincoln's Opening Speech from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Debate
South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond, 1858
Proposed Crittenden Compromise, 1860
South Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession, 24 December 1860
ConfederateVice-President Alexander H. Stephens, 1861
|The Sectional Crisis and Slavery
Provided, territory from That, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty which may be negotiated between them, and the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall be first duly convicted.
[Passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, 1846 and 1847, never passed by the U.S. Senate]
And now that we have come to the very heart and soul of our subject, we feel no disposition to mince matters, but mean to speak plainly, and to the point, without any equivocation, mental reservation, or secret evasion whatever. . . . In our opinion. . . the causes which have impeded the progress and prosperity of the South, have dwindled our commerce. . . into the most contemptible insignificance; sunk a large majority of our people in galling poverty and ignorance, rendered a small minority conceited and tyrannical, and driven the rest away from their homes; entailed upon us a humiliating dependence on the Free States; disgraced us in the recesses of our own souls, and brought us under reproach in the eyes of all civilized and enlightened nations—may all be traced to one common source, and there find solution in the most hateful and horrible word that was ever incorporated into the vocabulary of human economy—Slavery! . . .
The questions now arise, How can the evil be averted? What are the most prudent and practical mean that can be devised for the abolition of slavery? In the solution of these problems it becomes necessary to deal with a multiplicity of stubborn realities. And yet, we can see no reason why North Carolina, in her sovereign capacity, may not, with equal ease and success do what forty-five other states of the world have done within the last forty-five years. Nor do we believe any good reason exists why Virginia should not perform as great a deed in 1859 as did New York in 1799. Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1780; would it not be a masterly stroke of policy in Tennessee, and every other slave State, to abolish it in or before 1860? . . .
[Hinton Rowan Helper was a white from the yeomen class in western North Carolina. His book was popular in the North but condemned in the Southern States. Helper was not an abolitionist.]
1. Resolved, That the territories of the United
States belong to the people of the several states of this Union as their
common property. That the citizens of the several states have equal
rights to migrate with their property to these territories, and are equally
entitled to the protection of the federal government in the enjoyment of
that property so long as the territories remain under the charge of that
“Southern Thought,” 1856
Twenty years ago the South had no thought—no opinion of her own. Then she stood behind all christendom, admitted her social structure, her habits, her economy, and her industrial pursuits to be wrong, deplored them as a necessity, and begged pardon for their existence. Now she is about to lead the thought and direct the practices of christendom; for christendom sees and admits that she has acted a silly and suicidal part in abolishing African slavery—the South a wise and prudent one in retaining it. France and England, who fairly represent the whole of so-called free society, are actively engaged in the slave-trade under more odious and cruel forms than were ever known before. They must justify their practices; and, to do so, must adopt and follow Southern thought. This, of itself, would put the South at the lead of modern civilization.
Chief Justice Taney: The question is simply this: Can a negro, whose
ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a
member of the political community formed and brought into existence by
the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all
the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument
to the citizen? One of which rights is the privilege of suing in
a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution.
. . .
As to the first one, in regard to the fugitive slave law, I have not
hesitated to say, and I do not now hesitate to say, that I think, under
the Constitution of the United States, the people of the southern states
are entitled to a congressional fugitive slave law. Having said that,
I have had nothing to say in regard to the existing fugitive slave law
further than that I think it should have been framed so as to be free from
some of the objections that pertain to it, without lessening its efficiency.
And inasmuch as we are not now in an agitation in regard to an alteration
or modification of that law, I would not be the man to introduce it as
a new subject of agitation upon the general question of slavery.
Excerpt from a speech Praising King Cotton in which he extols the South because the world depends on its Cotton.
In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties,
to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a
low order of intellect and but little skill. Its requisites are vigor,
docility, fidelity. Such a class you must have, or you would not
have that other class which leads to progress, civilization, and refinement.
It constitutes the very mud-sill of society and of political government;
and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build
either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill. Fortunately,
for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand.
A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor,
in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes.
We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves. We found them
slaves by the common “consent of mankind,” which, according to Cicero,
“lex naturae est.” The highest proof of what is Nature’s law. We
are old-fashioned at the South yet; slave is a word discarded now by “ears
polite;” I will not characterize that class at the North by that term;
but you have it; it is there; it is everywhere; it is eternal.
|The Proposed Crittenden
Whereas, serious and alarming dissensions have arisen between the Northern
and Southern States, concerning the rights and security of the rights of
the slave-holding States, and especially their rights in the common territory
of the United States; and whereas it is eminently desirable and proper
that these dissensions which now threaten the very existence of this Union,
should be permanently quieted and settled, by constitutional provision,
which shall do equal justice to all sections, and thereby restore to the
people that peace and good will which ought to prevail between all the
citizens of the United States: Therefore:
Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession, 24 December 1860
The people of the State of South Carolina in Convention
assembled, on the 2d day of April, A. D. 1852, declared that the frequent
violations of the Constitution of the United States by the Federal Government,
and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified
this State in their withdrawal from the Federal Union; but in deference
to the opinions and wishes of the other Slaveholding States, she forbore
at that time to exercise this right. Since that time these encroachments
have continued to increase and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue.
The new constitution [Confederate States of America] has put at rest, forever, all 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.”
[Alexander Stephens of Georgia served as Vice
President of the Confederacy]