Slavery and Secession – Another View

The Faith and Heritage blog has a fascinating review of The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, by William W. Freehling. So much of what I thought I knew about the period leading up to the War for Southern Independence is a very simplified view. So often, we accuse the South-haters of oversimplification for their claim that slavery was the cause of the war. We usually counter with our own overly-simplified explanation of states rights, cultural differences, taxation, etc. This Faith and Heritage article has shown me an entirely new set of factors that led up to secession and the war. History is an incredibly complex thing to try to understand in depth. The only way that it can be presented in even a remotely understandable format is to over-simplify it – which is why two sides can make contrary claims and still be using factual information. It is up to us, as students of history and culture, to add layer upon layer of these simplified explanations until we get to a point of understanding beyond the norm of useless simplicity.

One matter that I was completely unaware of is that South Carolina was governed explicitly as an aristocracy, and there is ample discussion of that – enough that I look forward to learning more about it.

Another subject that caught my interest on a more personal level is the role – and rationale – of the abolitionist Cassius Clay, cousin of Henry Clay. These men are among my ancestors, and that is where my middle name came from (a middle name that I share with my father and my grandfather). Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay (who later changed his name to Mohamed Ali) was named after Cassius Clay with the understanding that he was an abolitionist. He was, indeed an abolitionist, but I am confident that his father who named him was quite unaware of exactly why the original Cassius Clay embraced abolition. The article points out that Clay hoped to make Kentucky into a White ethnostate, and outlawing slavery was the means to exclude Blacks from that state. History has many little nuances like that when we take the time to look beyond the official “approved” story. Was this motivation more wide-spread? Was that part of the North’s enthusiasm for abolition? Interesting questions that beg for answers.

At 4574 words, this is not a short article. If you are not prepared to read it in its entirety, then either understand that you may be missing key points, or don’t start at all. Read it with an open mind and you will gain a much deeper insight into the circumstances that led up to secession and the war, what the political landscape looked like, and perhaps even a few “alternative futures” had things gone differently. This is “Part 1″ – I look forward to reading what follows.

About Stephen Clay McGehee

Born-Again Christian, Grandfather, husband, business owner, Southerner, aspiring Southern Gentleman. Publisher of The Confederate Colonel and The Southern Agrarian blogs. President/Owner of Adjutant Workshop, Inc., Vice President - Gather The Fragments Bible Mission, Inc. (Sierra Leone, West Africa), Webmaster - Military Order of The Stars and Bars, Kentucky Colonel.
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5 Responses to Slavery and Secession – Another View

  1. Sam Starrett says:

    I’ll have to check that out. I’m especially interested in the South Carolinian aristocracy, which to me, unlike most people in our age, sounds like rather a point in its favor than a point against it.

  2. james wilson says:

    You will be aware that as slavery ended in the North over the decades, those unfortunate souls were not suddenly granted manumission. They were sold and shipped south–those that were still worth something.

  3. James says:

    Dear Sirs,
    Here, yet again, as mentioned by Mr. Wilson, is the cynical selectiveness of the Northern aggressors and many so-called abolitionists. Wealthy Bostonians shipped slaves and sold slaves. No slave ship ever sailed under a Confederate flag, ever. Lincoln believed the Blacks were inferior and undesirable, and actively promoted and planned their deportation out of these united States. Grant was an overseer at the plantation of his father-in-law, and tried to sell his slaves. In contrast, General Lee freed the slaves he inherited, and General Jackson taught Blacks to read and write. Generals Lee and Jackson are examples of the many White Southerners who were the real friends of the Black man.
    A New Jersey Copperhead

  4. Austin says:

    The root of the trouble was and to a large extent remains the different origins of the original American settlers. The Puritans of New England left Olde England out of their fear and loathing of the Cavaliers of King James’ court. After the Puritan’s victory in the English Civil War, the defeated Cavaliers fled England, out of fear and loathing for the Cromwell/Puritan dictatorship, for the tidewater of Virginia. The die was thus cast for a repeat conflict.

  5. Thank you, Austin. Having additional historical perspective really helps put things in context – something that is often lacking in discussion of any topic like this.

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