SLAVERY ALONE: THE REASON FOR THE CIVIL WAR


 

SLAVERY ALONE: THE REASON FOR THE CIVIL WAR
By Uriah J. Fields

Slavery began in British North America (Indian country) 240 years before the start of the Civil War when a Dutch ship brought 20 enslaved Africans to the Virginia colony at Jamestown in Virginia. With slavery being the underpinning of the cotton-based economy of the South there was a rapid increase in the slave population that grew to four million by the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.

Although many Northerners were enriched by industry, it was slaves who enriched many Southerners. Great Britain, probably the world's largest textile industry at that time, was a major consumer of the South's cotton. At one point cotton was transported abroad and slaves were brought back to America on the same ships. This was a lucrative trans-continental business for Southern slave owners. In 1810, the price of a "prime field hand" was $900. By 1860, the price had doubled to $1,800.

This led the Confederacy and its president Jefferson Davis, to believe from the beginning of the war, if not before, that British dependence on cotton for it's large textile industry would lead to recognition and mediation or military intervention in support of the South. President Lincoln appealed to Britain to not become involved in the war. Britain having equal disdain for the South and North, officially remained neutral throughout the Civil War. In part, this may be attrributable to Britain losing the war with her former colonies nearly a hundred years earlier and causing them to become an independent nation in 1776.

William Wilberforce and the campaign against slavery deserve much of the credit for enactment of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 in Britain that abolished slavery in most of the British Empire.

The reason for the Civil War was slavery. The Civil War was about property rights. Slaves were the most valuable property of property owners in the South. They were more valuable than land. A small piece of land with slaves was much more valuable than a large amount of land without slaves. Without slave labor land was of little value.

The Supreme Court decision of 1857 in "Dred Scott v. Sandford" escalated the controversy of slavery. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's decision said that slaves were "so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." In actuality, he said slaves were white men's property.

In the presidential election of 1860, the Republican Party led by Abraham Lincoln campaigned against the expansion of slavery beyond states in which it had already existed. On March 4, 1861, seven cotton states declared secession from the United States and joined together to form the Confederate States of America. Led by Jefferson Davis, the Confederacy fought for independence from the United States.

This analogy illustrates the point being made. Eating poison meat caused a person to be treated in the emegency hospital for a sickness that caused him to vomit, have a fever and diarrhea. All of which led to him being treated in the emergency hospital. It was not the vomiting, fever, diarrhea or all them combined that sent the person to the emergency hospital. Foremost it was eating poison meat. Similarly, it was slavery that caused the Civi War. It is hard to understand why some historians and many others give reasons other than slavery as the cause of the Civil War. Could it be that they feel that freeing blacks from slavery was not worth fighting for? They don't have myriad reasons as to why Americans fought in World War II. A single reason is enough.

In September 1862, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in the South was a war goal. He said, the question of slavery was more important than any other, indeed, so much more important that no other national question can even get a hearing at present." It would be January 1, 1863 when President Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories held by Confederates and the enlisting of black soldiers in the Union Army. The war that would continue until 1865 to preserve the Union became a revolutionary struggle for the abolition of slavery.

Many battles was fought during the Civil War. Confederate commander Robert E. Lee won battles in Virginia, but in 1863, his northward advance was turned back with heavy casualties after the Battle of Gettesburg. Union was able to capitalize on its long-term advantages in men and materials by 1864 when Ulysses S. Grant fought battles of attrition against Lee, while Union general William Tecumseh Sherman catured Atlanta. Confederates resistance ended after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

Among the prominent abolitionists were William Wilberforce, mentioned earlier, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln who encouraged the Union Army to defeat the Confederate Army.

The legacy of slavey is a sad commentary on Americans. Despite the death of 630,000 soldiers, the abolition of slavery and preservation of the Union, the legacy of slavery meant disfranchisement, segregation and discrimination for African Americans for a century after the Civil War. Today, 150 years after the Civil War inequity for African Americans is evident in the high rate of incarceration of black males, a disproportionate high rate in unemployment and health ailments. While the enactment of Civil Rights laws in the 1960s granted blacks access to venues they had been denied, allowing for equaity of opportunity to a greater degree than before, equality of participation has lagged far behind that of the descendants of former slave owners, and equality of achievement does not reflect the benefits of blacks having equlity of opportunity and equality of participation. The widening gap in enconomics and the digital divide between blacks and whites continue to expand rather than decrease.

The legacy of slavery is a generational boomerang which adversely and perpetually impacts descendants of slavers, descendants of slaves and other Americans. Slavery alone is the reason for the Civil War. Yes, it does matter that we know the truth.

Copyright 2011 by Uriah J. Fields

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