Letter to the Editor: Slavery cause of the Civil War

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Proponents of Lee Monument gathered to protest its removal May 18, 2017.

Editor's Note: This letter originally ran in The Advocate on May 16, 2017. Swanson is referring to a May 15 article published by The Advocate by Mark Ballard, in the first line. -Greg Fischer

In your story dated May 15, titled “Louisiana Black Caucus condemns 'disgusting' vote by House to block removal of New Orleans monuments,” State Rep. Thomas Carmody Jr., the bill’s sponsor, “said he believes in secession and that the Civil War was not fought by the Confederacy to protect slavery.” Mr. Carmody is incorrect.

In the fall of 1860 the U.S. Senate tried to compromise to keep the South from seceding. Mississippi Sen. Jefferson Davis’ proposal toward that end was that slaves be treated like other property. When that effort failed, Louisiana Sen. Judah Benjamin, Georgia Sen. Robert Toombs and Mississippi Sen. Jefferson Davis told the U.S. Senate they were resigning because the north was interfering with slavery. They then became the attorney general, secretary of state, and president of the Confederacy. On Dec. 10, 1860, Louisiana Gov. Moore told the state legislature Louisiana would secede due to “abolitionism.” Moore declared Lincoln has “fanatical hostility to slavery” that will “end with the downfall of slavery.” Moore then listed many ways Northern states have interfered with slavery, including refusing to returned escaped slaves, punishing anyone who helps capture escaped slaves, and freeing escaped slaves through “Personal Liberty bills.” 

In spring 1861, Southern state secession conventions officially declared secession was about slavery. South Carolina told other southern states, “We ask you to join us in forming a Confederacy of Slaveholding States.” Mississippi said, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.” Georgia declared, “For the last 10 years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave- holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.” The Commissioner from Louisiana to the Texas Secession Convention stated, “Louisiana looks to the formation of a Southern confederacy to preserve the blessings of African slavery.” Texas announced it left the U.S. because “The non-slaveholding states . . . demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy.” Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, proclaimed, “The new (Confederate) constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us...the negro is not equal to the white man; slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.” Upon ratification of the Confederate Constitution, Confederate President Davis told the Confederate Congress the Confederacy was created and was fighting because “the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable.” William Tappan Thompson, designer of the second national Confederate flag, stated his flag would show“as a people we are fighting to maintain the heavenly ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race.”

All these quotes occurred before and during the Civil War. Only after the Civil War did Southern whites erase history by falsely claiming secession, the Confederacy, and the Civil War were not about slavery. See civilwarcauses.org for more of southern whites’ own words; see also newspapers of that time, available at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.

Rick Swanson, J.D., Ph.D.