Propaganda often masquerades as history… if it was obvious, it wouldn’t work. Arguments including “states’ rights” and “Lincoln was pro slavery” and “Lee was only reluctantly defending slavery” etc. are all whitewashing and apologism at *best*. But here is real, plain history from an expert historian — succinct and persuasively presented.
I am sorry to my black friends if essays like this are rough reading, but I’m not sorry to encourage white Southerners to better understand how they have been deceived and miseducated through their lives, in schools and the public squares. As someone educated K-12 in the public schools of DeKalb County GA, I’ve had to catch up, myself.
So yeah, y’all: It was not a noble difference of opinion and lifestyle that sparked and carried the Civil War, but Southerners’ economic and social dependence on the permanent enslavement and dehumanization of black people. It was evil, and it is shameful.
In each of my three books, I have discussed the origins and nature of the American Civil War. I have tried to … show that it was emphatically not a “War of Northern Aggression”—it was not a case of Southern states defending themselves from a threatening central government. Quite the contrary. Yet the current political discussion is bringing up long-discredited arguments that must be refuted. Yes, the war was emphatically about slavery.
…[S]lavery was not dying. The South was not a backwater. Total investment in *all* manufacturing and railroads in 1860 equalled about $2.2 billion, nationwide. The investment in slavery? About $3 billion. The white South was the richest part of the nation, per capita. Key parts of the Northern economy was dependent on cotton, and the South knew it. So you had a vibrant, successful economy with a tradition of providing national political leadership. The white South was proud, and felt strong.
Third, the events that led to secession were all about the effort of the South (let’s be clear—the white South) to *expand* slavery to territories in the west, and to enforce slavery nationally. Sometimes they spoke of the “equal rights of the States,” by which they meant the South deserved equal respect for its property and labor system—slavery—as the North did for its free-labor system. …
[T]he South started to secede almost immediately after Lincoln’s election, long before his inauguration (which was in March 1861). The fire-eaters turned the election of 1860 into a hostage negotiation, the hostage being the Union, the ransom being Southern extremist victory. When Lincoln won, they shot the hostage. They weren’t defending their own, they were demanding it all.
Sixth, the ordinances of secession (as well as the entire political discussion surrounding these events, and the Confederate constitution) made it clear that the South was seceding in order to enshrine slavery. Protecting slavery is why the white South seceded, period. During the war, Confederate army asserted this directly. When Robert E. Lee invaded Pennsylvania, he issued orders to capture and enslave free African Americans—even those who had been born free—with elaborate regulations on how they should be processed and distributed.
Please read the whole thing. It’s not very long but it is extremely well-presented.