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Revisiting the Past : Part 4 – The Institution of Slavery as a cause for war.
By Bob Hubbard (Originally Published on 12-16-2008)

My previous three articles on States Rights, Secession and the causes of the ill named “American Civil War” always come back to the discussion of slavery. Before reading this article, I strongly encourage you to read the prior three. Some of this will be familiar, and some not so. I will not reargue the established legality of secession here as that was covered quite in depth in my earlier articles.

The Institution of Slavery as a cause for war.

Whenever the topic of the American Civil War, or more correctly the “War of Northern Aggression” is brought up, the comment is made that it was a war to free slaves and restore the Union and preserve the Constitution.

The arguments I presented in my earlier articles clearly show the falsehood of all three however. While many of the Declarations of Secession issued by the South were clearly focused around the institution of slavery, slavery was not the reason for war.

When our nation was founded, it was the Southern not the Northern who opposed continuing the slave trade.

The evil of this traffic soon became apparent to the people of the South, and when the Constitution was framed in 1787, the South demanded that the fundamental law of our land should inhibit this traffic of importing human beings from Africa. The South was resisted by the New England slave-traders, and as a compromise, it was agreed that the trade should be restricted, and after the year 1800, entirely prohibited, but, by the persistency of New England, the provision was finally extended to the year 1808. ” –Hon. Joseph Wheeler, of Alabama. July 31, 1894

In fact, at the founding of our nation, slavery existed in all of the states. It was only over time as the North industrialized, and moved from a farm system to industrial one, was slavery slowly abolished, with the northern slaves not freed, but simply resold to the south where it was still profitable to use them.

“When the Constitution was adopted and the Union formed, slavery existed in practically all the States; and it is claimed by the Southern people that its disappearance from the Northern and its development in the Southern States is due to climatic conditions and industrial exigencies rather than to the existence or absence of great moral ideas. ” –John B. Gordon, Maj. Gen. CSA


Now, it would be a fool who would state that slavery wasn’t a part of the reason the road to war was traveled. But, the idea that it was simply slavery, is one that avoids the deeper reasons.

Slavery was undoubtedly the immediate fomenting cause of the woeful American conflict. It was the great political factor around which the passions of the sections had long been gathered–the tallest pine in the political forest around whose top the fiercest lightnings were to blaze and whose trunk was destined to be shivered in the earthquake shocks of war. But slavery was far from being the sole cause of the prolonged conflict. Neither its destruction on the one hand, nor its defence on the other, was the energizing force that held the contending armies to four years of bloody work. I apprehend that if all living Union soldiers were summoned to the witness stand, every one of them would testify that it was the preservation of the American Union and not the destruction of Southern slavery that induced him to volunteer at the call of his country. As for the South, it is enough to say that perhaps eighty per cent. of her armies were neither slave-holders, nor had the remotest interest in the institution. No other proof, however, is needed than the undeniable fact that at any period of the war from its beginning to near its close the South could have saved slavery by simply laying down its arms and returning to the Union. ” –John B. Gordon, Maj. Gen. CSA


Lincoln himself, who many ignorant people applaud for ending slavery, was quite clear on his reasons for the war, and where he stood on the slaves.

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” – Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley August 22, 1862

In fact, his oft cited “Emancipation Proclamation” freed no one under Union control, and Slavery wasn’t officially ended until 8 months after his death.

What you have in the lead up to this tragic event was a generations worth of political maneuvering however.

As the North industrialized, the South remained an agricultural society. Ever increasing tariffs continued to place undue burdens on the South, who by the start of secessions were paying over 70% of the tariff income to the Federal Government.

When the Southern States seceded, the Union was left with a major income problem. Lincoln had promised to do whatever he had to to collect these tariffs.

“The North invaded to regain lost federal tax revenue by keeping the Union intact by force of arms. In his First Inaugural Lincoln promised to invade any state that failed to collect “the duties and imposts,” and he kept his promise. On April 19, 1861, the reason Lincoln gave for his naval blockade of the Southern ports was that “the collection of the revenue cannot be effectually executed” in the states that had seceded.” — Prof. Thomas Dilorenzo

I turn now to the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service

“One of these quarrels was about taxes paid on goods brought into this country from foreign countries. This kind of tax is called a tariff. In 1828, Northern businessmen helped get the “Tariff Act” passed. It raised the prices of manufactured products from Europe which were sold mainly in the South.

The purpose of the law was to encourage the South to buy the North’s products. It angered the Southern people to have to pay more for the goods they wanted from Europe or pay more to get goods from the North. Either way the Southern people were forced to pay more because of the efforts of Northern businessmen. Though most of tariff laws had been changed by the time of the Civil War, the Southern people still remembered how they were treated by the Northern people.”

From “Wedges of Separation In The Civil War

“In addition to this monopoly of the foreign export business, the almost complete control of banking in the North worked a hardship on the South; and heavy tribute was paid to Yankee shipping interests which enjoyed the greater share of the ocean carrying trade of the country. Southerners were therefore saying: We must free ourselves from this economic subservience. Manufacturing, banking, and international trade must be brought into Southern hands. New Orleans must supersede New York as the business hub of the nation. Look to the tariff! While the South has lacked the majority to determine the incidence of this unequal tax, yet her shoulders must bear the burden. Through the operation of unequal navigation laws passed by the Federal Congress, feudal palaces rise throughout New England and fleets of merchantmen crowd its ports. Let the South but assume her stand among the nations, and these palaces and fleets will vanish, and the seats of economic domination will be transferred to the harbors of the Chesapeake, to Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, or New Orleans. Great European liners will establish regular connection between Europe and the South, instead of having Boston, New York, or Philadelphia as the termini of the Atlantic lines.”

In fact, tariffs were planned on going even higher doubling the burden on the South when the original 7 Confederate states left the Union.

With the debate on slavery in the new territories going against them, faced with a decrease of political power in the Federal Government, as well as an increasingly unjust financial burden, these states left, peacefully.

When the South began promoting free-trade however, a serious threat to the North appeared. As foreign trade began avoiding Northern Ports for Southern ones who offered free trade or low tariffs. As US Tariff income fell, war loomed closer.

It wasn’t until Lincoln forced a confrontation at Ft. Sumter, that war began, at which point several other states, including Virginia who had been trying to pacify and resolve the situation also left, citing in part the illegal actions of the Lincoln Administration. Northern sentiment, as well as that of most of Lincolns advisors and the remaining US Government was to let the South go in peace. Lincoln however would not stand for that, and so, the reason for war, the resulting bloodshed and destruction rests squarely at his feet.


Slavery and States Rights
Great Speech of Hon. Joseph Wheeler, of Alabama.
From the Richmond, Va., Dispatch, July 31, 1894

“Reminiscences Of The Civil War”, (Chapter I)
– John B. Gordon, Maj. Gen. CSA

Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley August 22, 1862

Revisiting the Past : Part 1 – An examination of the concept of Secession
Revisiting the Past : Part 2 – The Road to War : Causes

Revisiting the Past : Part 3 – An re-examination of the concept of Secession
– Bob Hubbard

The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War
– Thomas Dilorenzo

U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service…03-lesson1.htm

Wedges of Separation In The Civil War

33 Questions about American History
-Thomas E. Woods Jr.

Politically Incorrect guide to American history
– Thomas E. Woods Jr

Lincoln Unmasked
– Thomas Dilorenzo


Bob Hubbard is the CEO of SilverStar WebDesigns Inc, a web design and hosting company specializing in martial arts sites, as well as an administrator on the popular martial arts communities, and He is also a respected professional photographer specializing in martial arts event, nature and portrait photography. His martial arts photography can be found there as well as at his martial arts photography web site, He may be reached through these sites.
Copyright © 2008 – Bob Hubbard – All Rights Reserved