How to end all debate about the reason for the Civil War.

23 12 2009

Paul Krugman, wonderful economist that he is, has been getting into an argument about the cause of the Civil War of late:

Some commenters took umbrage at my assertion in this post that Robert E. Lee fought in a terrible cause. The Civil War, they say, wasn’t about slavery. Well, let me pull Abraham Lincoln out from behind this sign to explain it to you. Yes it was.

I’ve kept his links, the second one being Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech. The problem with that is that Lincoln didn’t start the Civil War. The South did. In fact, South Carolina did by seceding first. And as I’ve heard Jim Loewen has point out, that state was abundantly clear about why it seceded. Look at its statement of secession and you’ll see that the only “states’ right” they cared about was the right to hold slaves:

We affirm that these ends, for which this Government was instituted, have been defeated, and the government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding states. Those states have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the states and recognized by the constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted the open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other states. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes, and those who remain have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common government. Observing the forms of the constitution, a sectional party has found within that article establishing the executive department the means of subverting the constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the states north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common government, because he has declared that that “government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

The guaranties of the constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the states will be lost. The slaveholding states will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the federal government will have become their enemy. Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error, with the sanctions of a more erroneous religious belief. We, therefore, the people of South Carolina, by our delegates, in convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the union heretofore existing between this state and the other states of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent state, with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.

Can’t get much clearer than that, can you? According to Loewen, most of the other Confederate states made similar statements when they seceded, but I haven’t looked those up.

So while Krugman is right and I love the Annie Hall reference, he really should take pains to make sure it’s really Marshall McCluhan he’s pulling into his movie line.

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5 02 2010
Thoughts on No University Is an Island, Part 1. « More or Less Bunk

[...] This may be controversial in some (probably Southern) circles, but I can easily explain to anyone why I believe this. It is a question of evidence, rather than [...]

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