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- EverVigilant.net -
"The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." - John Philpot Curran

3/06/2008

Lincoln Proposed Purchasing Slaves

About a year into his illegal war against the South, President Lincoln suggested buying slaves for $400 apiece as part of a "gradual emancipation" plan. Fox News reports that Lincoln's "proposal was outlined in one of 72 letters penned by Lincoln that ended up in the University of Rochester's archives." That idea never panned out.

The fact that such a plan wasn't seriously considered before the invasion of the South further demonstrates that the conflict wasn't over slavery. It also betrays the mindset of the anti-secessionist bigots in Washington, who were much happier pursuing the war at a cost of billions of dollars and over 600,000 American lives in order to save their precious Union.

Labels: ,

4 Comments:

Blogger BadTux said...

Constitution of the Confederate States of America

Article 1 Section 9
(4) No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

Article IV Sec. 2. (I) The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.

...
(3) The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several Sates; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.

.....
In other words, the Constitution of the Confederate States of American prohibited abolishing slavery either on the federal level or at the individual state level. Under the Confederate Constitution Article IV Section 2, no state is allowed to bar slavery within their borders. Under Article IV Section 3, new states and territories also are prohibited from abolishing slavery within their borders.

So much for the "state's rights" argument... the Constitution of the Confederate States of America says that the whole "states rights" thing was a post-war invention, for the South, their very own Constitution says that slavery was a more important issue to them than state's rights. Don't feel bad, I got fed that same crock of reeking bull excrement during my upbringing in the Deep South under the tutelage of the doyennes of the Daughters of the Confederacy. What, you thought the Nazis invented propaganda? They had *nothing* on the ex-Confederates after the Civil War... why, Jefferson Davis went from being the most hated man in the South in January 1865 (I've read the letters, I've looked at the statistics, he was widely felt to be the cause of the fact that the South was losing the war and draft evasion and desertion became the order of the day, Joe Johnson's Army of North Carolina had 120,000 men on paper, but only about 15,000 men in reality because the rest had deserted or never shown up!), to having statues of himself all over the South. Now *that* is some powerful propaganda...

That said, I do agree that for the North, slavery was at best an afterthought. Lincoln had no plan for freeing the slaves when elected because, well, he didn't intend to free the slaves, his only intention on election day was to prevent slavery from being implemented in new states and get rid of some of the laws like the "Fugitive Slave Act" that were being abused to re-enslave slaves who'd bought themselves out of slavery or been freed by their masters. The Radical Republicans later pushed for freeing the slaves not because they cared about the black man (the speed with which they dumped the black man under the oncoming train of Jim Crow when it became expedient should make that clear), but because they blamed the South for the hundreds of thousands of dead on the Northern side and wanted to punish the South.

You don't need me or anybody else to tell you that the North was fighting to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery. All you have to do is read the letters and speeches of Northern politicians and generals during the era. Sherman, for example, while marching through Georgia, was quite upset that slaves were deserting their plantations and following his army. He ranted in his letters that he had no way of feeding that hoard or protecting them, that they were useless and should go back home to their plantations. But read Sherman's letter to the Mayor of Atlanta if you want to see typical Northern thinking at the time. It is clear that his one and only goal was the preservation of the Union and the ending of the war.

Now, for the question of whether the goal of preserving the Union was a worthy one, two words for you: New Orleans. The United States had paid good money to (probably illegally) purchase New Orleans and the rest of the Louisiana Purchase (and BTW, if you care about law, you should support giving the lands obtained in the Louisiana Purchase back to France, since the Constitution gives no power to the President to buy new territories). Most of the agricultural output of the Midwest even in 1860 still went down the Mississippi River and out the Port of Orleans, and New Orleans being under the control of any government other than the U.S. government simply wasn't acceptable to the Midwest. In addition, this was the era of the "Great Game", where the European superpowers were competing to chop up the world into various spheres of influence. No wanna-be superpower could allow one of its colonies (which to a certain extent the North viewed the South as being) to leave without risking the fate of the Ottoman Empire, which at that very moment was being slowly chopped to pieces with e.g. the British breaking off Kuwait as a colony of theirs, the Italians breaking off Libya as a colony of theirs, the French breaking off Algeria as a colony of theirs, etc. So regardless of any legalities, as a practical matter the South deciding to secede meant war, which was acknowledged by both sides, which is why the first action the South took after the secession vote was to seize the forts and arsenals without compensation to the U.S. government (no need to compensate a government you're going to be going to war against, after all).

In short, law or no law, as a practical matter secession meant war, because as a practical matter the U.S. government could not allow its agricultural hinterlands and the Port of Orleans spin off into foreign control (and remember, Mexico at this time was under the control of France, so there was precedent that one of the European superpowers would come in and seize the South if the U.S. government itself did not do so first). Slavery... eh. Not a factor for the North. Decidedly a factor for the South -- their very own Constitution puts slavery ahead of states' rights as their reason for seceding.

One thing I would say to you is this: Go by the wartime writings of the Confederates and Unionists if you would wish to see their motivations, not the post-war apologias. The post-war apologias of the North turned it into a noble quest to free the slaves rather than freeing the slaves being an afterthought to punish the South, the post-war apologias of the South turned it into a noble quest for state's rights rather than a despicable quest to maintain a morally abhorrent institution of slavery. Both of the post-war apologias are ex post facto propaganda campaigns to justify each side's actions. Only by reading the actual writings of the major figures, North and South, as written *during* the war, can you get a good idea of the *real* issues they were fighting for. And it's kinda fun to read those writings too, I spent many a day in the State Archives back during my college days doing research for a professor who was investigating the reasons for plantation failures in the pre-war era (the most common cause that plantations failed: THEY COULD NOT ADD! For true! Their accounting books were a math nightmare, they might have been able to orate elegantly, but when it cames to simple arithmetic they were horrid!). The difference between what I read in those letters and papers, and what I'd learned at the hands of the Daughters of the Confederacy, well, it was pretty hilarious, actually. But so it goes.

- Badtux the History Penguin

3/8/08, 8:02 PM  
Blogger Lee Shelton IV said...

My point is that Lincoln wasn't the "Great Emancipator." He is virtually deified by Americans today because he "free the slaves." That's the real "crock of reeking bull excrement."

As to your points about the Confederacy, I don't have much disagreement. It was a corrupt government, and war, as it always does, only served to corrupt it further. But let's be careful not to interpret the writings of certain Confederate officials as the reason so many Southerners took up arms to defend their homes and families against what they saw as an illegal invasion. I personally think the Southern states should have freed their respective slave populations before seceding. Unfortunately, anything said today in support of the right of secession is viewed as support for slavery.

3/10/08, 6:48 AM  
Anonymous James Newland said...

The problem, Badtux, is that Southerners like Abel Upshur and John Calhoun were making the states' rights argument long, long before the onset of the War Between the States--not to mention the Framers of the Constitution.

States' rights didn't just spring up after the fact as a convenient excuse for waging war.

3/10/08, 6:36 PM  
Blogger BadTux said...

It is undeniable that people were making states' rights arguments before the war (and to a certain extent during the war, and to greater extent after the war). The question, though, James, is whether state's rights were more important than slavery as a reason for the secession of the Southern states from the Union. The Confederate constitution should make it clear that slavery was more important than states' rights to the Confederates, because it prohibited a state from banning slavery. Apparently states' rights were an issue for the Confederates -- except when states' rights meant that a state could ban slavery. Then states' rights got abandoned quickly.

Regarding Abe Lincoln as "The Great Emancipator", agreed that it's a crock of reeking bull excrement. Unfortunately, the slaves freed from slavery latched on to him as their liberator and Northern propagandists were happy to play along (as long as it was expedient -- once it became too expensive to continue punishing the South, they were happy to throw the blacks under the wheels of the oncoming train of Jim Crow). Reality is that Lincoln was a product of his times and little different from most Northern politicians of the day when it came to the issue of blacks. Let us not forget that the state of Indiana has the dubious distinction of being the only state that ever elected the KKK as its government.

Regarding the "right of secession", the problem is that it's difficult to maintain the United States as a superpower if you allow major portions of the country to secede whenever they get tired of being part of the country. And in 1861, that would have led to South and Central America being divvied up by the European superpowers, and, likely, the pieces of the United States snarfed up as colonies by the European superpowers too. Today, there are similar pressures for secession in various parts of the country. The Pacific Coast states, for example, are quick to tell you that they are sick of propping up the loser welfare states of the South with their federal taxes (the Pacific Coast states generally get about 85 cents back for every $1 they pay in taxes to the Federal government, the South generally gets about $1.50 back for every $1 they pay in taxes to the Federal goverment -- i.e., the South is being propped up by the West and Northeast), but the notion that the United States could continue as a superpower if the West Coast seceded is ludicrous. Pretty much every technological innovation that has kept the U.S. economy afloat over the past thirty years came out of the West Coast, and all the goods from China for the remainder of the U.S. are trans-shipped via West Coast ports. The United States without its west coast states would be a fatally crippled superpower. So despite the fact that the West Coast has become culturally and economically distinct from the rest of the country in much the way that the South was in 1860, secession isn't even muttered under people's breaths as a solution to the injustice of being raped by the Federal government to prop up a bunch of losers and old people who can't maintain a modern economy of their own.

The legality of secession simply does not matter -- because as a practical matter, nation-states view their survival as the pre-eminent matter of concern (or as right-wingers are fond of saying, "The Constitution is not a death pact!"). If it comes to a question of national survival or law, any nation-state will say "f*** the law, we will do whatever it takes to survive as a nation." So despite the injustice of paying nearly 14% of the total federal taxes despite having only 11% of the nation's households, and getting back 79c from the Federal government for every $1 sent to D.C. in taxes, California shall remain part of the United States. Because the issue of secession, for better or for worse, was settled in 1865 -- and it wasn't settled in favor of states like California that find themselves being raped to prop up loser states elsewhere.

-BT
[Note: Tax figures are from The Tax Foundation Special Report #139, with the exception of the population percentages which are from Special Report #150].

3/10/08, 7:44 PM  

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