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CAUSES OF THE CIVIL WAR
DRIFT TOWARDS SOUTHERN NATIONALIZATION
EVENTY-TWO years after the adoption of
the Constitution, called into being to form "a more perfect union," and eighty-five years after the declaration of independence (a space completely covered by the lives of men then still living), a new confederacy of seven southern states was formed, and the great political fabric, the exemplar and hope of every lover of freedom throughout the world, was apparently hopelessly rent. Of these seven states but two were of the original thirteenLouisiana and Florida had been purchased by the government of the Union; a war had been fought in behalf of Texas; two states, Alabama and Mississippi, lay within original claims of Georgia, but had been ceded to the Union and organized as Federal territories.
April 11, 1861, found a fully organized separate
government established for these seven states, with a determination to form a separate nation, most forcibly expressed by the presence of an army at Charleston, South Carolina, which next day was to open fire upon a feebly manned fort, and thus to begin a terrible civil war. The eight other slave states were in a turmoil of anxiety, leaning towards their sisters of the farther South through the common sympathy which came of slavery, but drawn also to the Union through tradition and appreciation of benefits, and through a realization by a great number of persons that their interests in slavery were much less than those of the states which had already seceded.
The North, in the middle of April, was only emerging from a condition of stupefied amazement at a condition which scarcely any of its statesmen, and practically none of the men of every-day life, had thought possible. It was to this crisis that the country had been brought by the conflicting views of the two great and strongly divided sections of the Union respecting slavery, and by the national aspirations which, however little recognized, were working surely in each section, but upon divergent lines.
In the period of the Revolution the four most southerly states were the only ones deeply interested in slavery from an economic point of view. The general sentiment in other states, among statesmen, at least, was averse to slavery, though the ob
jection was rather philosophic than practical. Even the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1772 petitioned against the traffic, but was resisted by the British crown.1 In the Articles of Association drawn up by the first Continental Congress, October 20, 1774, it was agreed that the United Colonies would "neither import nor purchase any slave" and would "wholly discontinue the slave trade."2
The North Carolina and Virginia Conventions sending delegates to that congress pledged themselves not to import slaves and not to purchase them when imported by others.3 And Congress itself, April 6, 1776, resolved, without opposition, that "no slaves be imported into any of the thirteen United Colonies."4 Though this action was directed against British commerce, it was an indication of a general feeling of opposition to the traffic. No mention, however, was made of the subject in the Articles of Confederation submitted November 15, 1777; the farther South had begun to look to its supposed interests, and the results were the compromises of the Constitution, a necessity to the formation and immediate well-being of the Union, but fatal to its later peace.
Journal of Va. House of Burgesses, 131; Tucker's Blackstone, I., pt. ii., App. 5.
2 Journals of Congress (ed. of 1904), I., 77.
3 Wilson, Slave Power, I., 14.
♦ Fournals of Congress (ed. of 1904), IV., 258.
Cf. McLaughlin's Confederation and the Constitution, chaps. xiv., xvi.; Hart, Slavery and Abolition, chap. xi. (Am. Nation, X., XVI.).
The almost universal deprecation of slavery by the public men of the eighteenth century need not be repeated here. The author of the Declaration of Independence, which declared all men created free and equal; the Virginia orator whose impassioned declamations had done so much to forward it; the great man and the great general whose lead was so indispensable to its success; and yet another Virginian who aided in making and expounding the Constitution, all declared their abhorrence of the system, but continued to hold their slaves. On the other hand, many northerners and Englishmen stood by the system. Even Jonathan Edwards left, as part of his property, two negroes, a man and a woman.' Whitefield regarded slavery as arranged by Providence for the instruction and salvation of the blacks; he had no doubt of the "lawfulness of keeping slaves," and died owning seventyfive, who, classed among his goods and chattels, were bequeathed to Lady Huntingdon.3 Lord Thurlow, in 1799, could denounce the proposal to abolish the slave-trade as "altogether miserable and ridiculous." 4
In the face of these facts it is not surprising that probably the great majority of lesser men, North as
1 See Lunt, Origin of the Late War, 8.
'Whitefield, Works, II., 404; Tyerman, Whitefield, II.,
3 Tyerman, John Wesley, III., 183.
Summary of debate July 5, 1799, Parliamentary History of England, XXXIV., 1138-1139.
well as South, regarded slavery as no sin. It was not until a great psychological wave of religious and altruistic enthusiasm swept over the North shortly after the Missouri contest that deprecation of slavery took a concrete form which made its destruction but a question of time. And this would have spread southward but for the simultaneous development of an immense and overpowering interest through the demand for cotton, the invention of the cotton-gin, and the consequent expansion on a gigantic scale of cotton production. This gave the slave a money value which it was hardly in human nature to ignore; and it gave an exultant feeling of superiority over the North in possessing a commercial monopoly. As put by a southern writer: "The cotton culture, then, and negro civilization, have grown up rapidly and equally together and their interests are now inseperable; whatever injures the one injures the other, and it is impossible to destroy the one without destroying the other. This alliance between the negroes and cotton, we venture to say, is now the strongest power in the world; and the peace and welfare of Christendom absolutely depend upon the strength and security of it. The whole world is under the heaviest bonds to promote and strengthen this connection."1 The supply of slaves could not keep pace with the demand; the more cotton, the more negroes needed.
1 Wright, "Cotton and Negroes," in De Bow's Review, XXIX., 139 (August, 1860).