In response to my short essay on November 9, a reader sent me a link to secession documents that implicated slavery, not the tariff, as the reason for Southern secession. It is typical for the uneducated to come across a document of which they have no understanding and to send it off with a rude "got you" note to one who does understand the document.
When the Southern states seceded, they were concerned to do so legally or constitutionally under the Constitution so that the North could not legally claim that it was an act of rebellion and invade the Southern states. To make this case, the South needed to make a case that the North had broken the Constitutional contract and that the South was seceding because the North had not kept to the Constitution.
This presented a legal challenge for the South, because the reason for which the Southern states were seceding was the tariff, but the Constitution gave the federal government the right to levy a tariff. Therefore, the Southern states could not cite the tariff as a breach of the Constitutional fabric.
Slavery was the only issue that the South could use to make a legal case that it was not in rebellion. Article 4 of the US Constitution reads: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due." In defiance of Article 4, some Northern states had passed laws that nullified the Fugitive Slave Act and other laws that upheld this article of the Constitution. The South used these nullification laws to make its case that Northern states had broken the Constitutional contract, thus justifying the Southern states secession.
Lincoln understood that he had no authority under the Constitution to abolish slavery. In his inaugural address he said: "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." The North had no intention of going to war over slavery. The same day that the Republican Congress passed the tariff, Congress passed the Corwin Amendment that added more constitutional protection to slavery.
Lincoln said that the South could have all the slavery that it wanted as long as the Southern states paid the tariff. The North would not go to war over slavery, but it would to collect the tariff. Lincoln said that "there needs to be no bloodshed or violence" over collecting the tariff, but that he will use the government's power "to collect the duties and imposts." The tariff was important to the North, because it financed Northern industrialization at the economic expense of the South.
During the decades prior to Southern Secession, the conflict between North and South was over the tariff, not over slavery. Slavery played a role only in the South's effort to keep a balance in the voting power of "free states" and "slave states" in the attempt to prevent the passage of a tariff.
The South's effort to exit the union legally and constitutionally was to no avail. Secession was declared a rebellion, and the South was invaded.
The misportrayal of the War of Northern Aggression as Lincoln's war to free slaves is also impossible to reconcile with Lincoln's view of blacks. Here is "the Great Emancipator" in his own words:
"I have said that the separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation [of the white and black races] ... Such separation ... must be affected by colonization" [sending blacks to Liberia or Central America]. (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln vol. II, p. 409).
"Let us be brought to believe it is morally right, and ... favorable to ... our interest, to transfer the African to his native clime." (Collected Works, vol. II, p. 409).
"I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people." (Collected Works, vol. III, pp. 145-146).
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