Lincoln and the Corwin Amendment

In the great secession winter of 1860-61, many members of Congress worked to frame compromise proposals which they hoped would save the union and forestall or short-circuit secession, much as there had been other compromise efforts before.  One product of these discussions was a set of six proposals collectively known as the Crittenden Compromise.  Each of those proposals addressed slavery in some way, but the compromise failed to gain sufficient support to be passed.  Not so with another, far simpler proposal offered by Ohio congressman Thomas Corwin.  The wording of the proposed amendment was to the point:

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

That proposal succinctly expressed president-elect Abraham Lincoln’s view on what the Constitution had to say about slavery in individual states.   For years Lincoln had said he did not want to pass legislation to abolish slavery where it already existed.  He reiterated that position in a letter as president-elect to Alexander H. Stephens:

Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly or indirectly, interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears.  The South would be in no more danger in this respect than it was in the days of Washington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You think slavery is right and should be extended; while we think slavery is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us.

As Lincoln understood it, the Constitution protected slavery in the states where it already existed.  Thus, as someone pledged to support the Constitution, Lincoln was also pledged to pursue this understanding.  His proposals for colonization looked to states and individuals to give up slavery by choice; they indicated his preference for gradual emancipation with compensation to owners and the voluntary relocation of blacks outside the United States.

The Corwin Amendment passed both houses of Congress as the Buchanan administration neared its end.  It had been over fifty years since there had been a proposed amendment that had made it through Congress, and so people may have been rusty when it came to procedure.  President James Buchanan signed the amendment, despite the fact that the chief executive had no role in the amendment process (much to Andrew Johnson’s chagrin years later, no doubt, for he would have vetoed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments if he had been given to opportunity to do so).  However, Buchanan left to Lincoln the responsibility of transmitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures for ratification.  As we will see, that act would give rise to some recent fuss.

In his first inaugural address, Lincoln included a section about the amendment process.  In that paragraph he mentioned the Corwin amendment, although not by name:

I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution — which amendment, however, I have not seen — has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

In short, Lincoln simply said that the Corwin amendment confirmed the understanding he had always had about the Constitution and slavery in states where it already existed.  He had “no objection” to it.  That’s not an endorsement, by the way.

On March 16 Lincoln, acting through his secretary of state, William Henry Seward, transmitted the proposed amendment to the states for ratification.  This administrative procedure became news several years ago when ill-informed individuals proclaimed that they had uncovered a Lincoln letter endorsing the amendment. “A rare document signed by Abraham Lincoln calling on states to approve a slavery amendment has been uncovered at the State Archives and is on display in downtown Raleigh,” announced one North Carolina newspaper.

In fact, as the text of the same letter sent to the governor of California reveals, there was no endorsement of the amendment within the letter.

To His Excellency
The Governor of the State of California
Sacramento.
Washington, March 16, 1861.
Sir:
I transmit an authenticated copy of a Joint Resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States, adopted by Congress and approved on the 2d of March, 1861, by James Buchanan, President.
I have the honor to be,
Your Excellency’s obedient servant,
Abraham Lincoln
By the President: William H. Seward. Secretary of State.

It was simply a letter of transmittal, as was pointed out at the time of the amusing flurry of reports.  The last time a proposed amendment had passed Congress and been sent to the states was 1810, so it’s understandable that whatever standard operating procedure existed was difficult to discern.  In short, the letter really has no bearing on the substance of the discussion.

Some scholars have attempted to make a great deal of Lincoln’s relationship to the Corwin amendment.  Take Thomas DiLorenzo, who went so far as to announce that Lincoln had framed the amendment himself while in Springfield and had Seward introduce it in Congress … a claim that on closer examination suggests something more about Seward than about Lincoln, since Seward seems to have enlarged upon Lincoln’s suggested proposals.

There’s nothing mysterious or revealing about the Corwin amendment … at least when it comes to Lincoln.  The amendment itself simply confirmed Lincoln’s understanding of constitutional law when it came to slavery.  Lincoln’s position during the years leading to his presidency is actually rather simple to summarize.  He thought slavery was wrong and immoral; he opposed its territorial expansion; he favored gradual, compensated emancipation with voluntary colonization (relocation) for American blacks; he admitted to holding to racial prejudices when it came to social equality, but believed in civil equality before the law for African Americans (although that did not include political rights).

Here’s what strikes me as odd about some discussions about Lincoln and the Corwin amendment.  Some of the very people who highlight it (hello, Mr. DiLorenzo) also claim that Lincoln was a dictator.  Yet this is a case where Lincoln recognized constitutional restraints upon executive power.  He might despise slavery, but he balanced that view with respect for the Constitution and the restraints it imposed upon the federal government (not simply the president) in times of peace.  Moreover, given Lincoln’s willingness to see the measure pass, why then did secessionists see Lincoln as a threat to the preservation of slavery?  If the new president was not going to touch slavery where it already existed, then why portray him as a threat to slavery?  Now, there’s good reason for that: many people believed that if slavery did not expand territorially, it would be in trouble.  An antislavery president would not endorse the efforts to curtail freedom of speech (that’s right, a constitutional right) that secessionists endorsed, and that would open up a discussion many white southerners did not want to have … indeed, feared to have.  In short, secessionists still saw Lincoln’s election as a threat to slavery, and they admitted as much in launching their preemptive strike to break free of the United States.

It’s ironic that today people point to Lincoln’s willingness to let the Corwin amendment go forward as evidence that he really didn’t care about slavery.  What do they know that the secessionists did not?  And, for those people who claim that Lincoln was not antislavery, what are they to make of secessionist fears on this score?  Were secessionists delusional?  Were they cynically manipulating southern whites (in which case one would wonder why some white southerners today would want to celebrate a political process in which their ancestors were tricked)?  Were secessionists simply liars?  I think not, but those Confederate Romantics who point to the Corwin amendment as evidence that Lincoln didn’t really care about slavery have some explaining to do.  As for me, I see all the fuss over Lincoln and the Corwin amendment as much ado about very, very little.

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47 thoughts on “Lincoln and the Corwin Amendment

  1. But was not the issue of the expansion of slavery into new territories the real divide in 1860. The previous compromises were null or not working to the slave owners satisfaction. Simply guarenteeing slaverys existence in the South was not going to be good enough.

      • “All of which would point to protecting slavery as the secessionists’ foremost concern.”–Brooks Simpson

        I’m sorry, Professor Simpson, but that’s counterintuitive. If protecting slavery was the South’s foremost concern, the Corwin Amendment would have done that, forever, in the States where slavery currently existed. At that point, the only power which could have abolished slavery would have been the individual Legislatures of the States involved, which is exactly how the South wanted it. So one has to ask why the South didn’t simply accept the proposed amendment and return to the Union, if their foremost concern was, as you claim, protecting slavery?

        As Stephen Keating pointed out, the real divide in 1860 was the issue of the expansion of slavery into the Territories. But why was that issue important to the South? It was because the balance of power in Congress (specifically the Senate) had been upset by the admission of California in 1850 as a Free State. The South was desperate to get new Slave States into the Union in order to restore that balance, and sought to expand slavery into the Territories so as to accomplish that goal. And when the 1860 election demonstrated that the balance of power would never be restored, and that total Northern domination of the government was at hand, the Southern States seceded.

        This leads one to ask why the balance of power in Congress was important to the South? Was it simply to protect slavery? If so, why did they not support the Corwin Amendment? Or were there other issues involved as well that were equally important, or even more so?

        Given that the issue of protecting slavery could have been resolved, for all time, by adoption of the Corwin amendment, the latter would seem more likely than the former.

        • Robert Perkins wrote: “Given that the issue of protecting slavery could have been resolved, for all time, by adoption of the Corwin amendment…”

          The Corwin amendment would have resolved nothing, so this line of argument goes no where.

          The Corwin amendment language only addressed a restriction on future amendments, (though this wouldn’t stop the amendment itself from being amended) and then only amendments that gave Congress a power. What did that really resolve?

          I think the secessionists were smart enough to realize that the Corwin amendment was worthless.

          • “The Corwin amendment would have resolved nothing, so this line of argument goes no where.

            The Corwin amendment language only addressed a restriction on future amendments, (though this wouldn’t stop the amendment itself from being amended) and then only amendments that gave Congress a power. What did that really resolve?”–Ned Baldwin

            The Corwin Amendment would have banned any future amendment which would give the Congress the power to abolish or interfere with slavery…a power which Congress did not have at the time and which it could only gain by amending the Constitution. Any amendment to the Corwin Amendment which would give Congress that power would itself be banned by the language of the Corwin Amendment.

            • Perhaps Mr. Perkins can share with us the text of any amendment being considered at the time (1860) that called for the immediate abolition of slavery in the United States through congressional action. When was such an amendment introduced prior to the war?

              I’m afraid Mr. Perkins has not wrestled yet with why secessionists advocated secession, and why the Corwin Amendment would have not had an effect on their views. I’ve pointed him to some documents.

              BTW, this suggests that Mr. Perkins also entertains some interesting thoughts about black Confederates. But at least that’s alternate history … much like “what if the South seceded but it was not about slavery?”

            • True an amendment that gave Congress authority to interfere with slavery would be blocked by the Corwin Amendment; but if one has the political strength to pass an anti-slavery amendment, one should also have the political strength to first pass an amendment that repeals the Corwin amendment.

              And without amending the Constitution, Congress found the authority for the confiscation acts, which interfered with slavery. The Corwin amendment would not have stopped that sort of Congressional action. The problems with the fugitive slave law would not be affected by the Corwin amendment. Problems with abolitionist newspapers, mail, etc. would not be affected by the Corwin amendment. The issues with slavery in the territories would not be affected by the Corwin amendment. None of the issues around slavery that had arisen in the decades leading up to that point would be solved with the Corwin amendment.

              Equally as important, from the point of view of secessionists in 1861, the likelihood of the amendment getting ratified by enough states in a reasonable amount of time was very slim. So they would be holding their breath for the adoption of an amendment that would have no real effect.

            • The common belief of the time was that slavery had to expand or die. That’s one reason why it was so important to deny the Federal government had the right to halt its expansion. Certainly denying free states the power in the Senate to pass antislavery legislation played a role, as well as the number of electoral votes at stake which would make it easier to elect antislavery presidents. However, the major issue was expanding slavery, which was the reason for filibuster campaigns and the designs on Mexico and Cuba in the slave states. That’s why the Corwin Amendment solved nothing. It would protect slavery only for the time being, but without expanding, slavery, as Lincoln would have said, would be on the road to eventual extinction without having to do anything to touch it in the states in which it already existed.

        • So one might think … at first. However, secessionists had already made clear that they did not trust Lincoln and the Republicans on this issue. If they had, they never would have left the Union in the first place, since Lincoln had made clear that he would not touch slavery where it existed before the secession movement got underway.

          As secessionists themselves focused on the protection of slavery as the primary reason for advocating secession, and as Lincoln had already gone on record as having no intention to touch slavery where it existed (indeed, he saw the Constitution as protecting slavery where it existed), you would be saying that you know better than the secessionists themselves what motivated them. That is counterintuitive, to be kind.

          Once upon a time, southern Democrats and northern Democrats found common ground when it came to the slavery issue. Yet by 1860 the two sectional wings had drifted apart, with the result being the splitting of the Democratic party. And why did that happen? Northern Democrats had tired of a “rule-or-ruin” approach by southern Democrats, who wanted the federal government to serve the interests of slavery and the plantation economy it made possible, but denied that the federal government could also act in the economic interests of northerners. Southern Democrats no longer trusted what remained of northern Democrats to protect slavery. And so what do we find at the heart of the divide? Different positions on slavery and a lack of trust.

          Moreover, proposing an amendment is not the same as adopting it. I think secessionists were convinced that the amendment would not be ratified. I suspect they may have been right. As it is, constitutional amendments take time to be ratified. That time would have allowed for support for secession to cool down. Secessionists understood that time was not on their side.

          Finally, the Corwin amendment, as even you admit, offered limited protection for slavery. It did not block all efforts to end it: it simply blocked a way that Republicans in 1860 already declined to use. In short, the amendment really didn’t change very much. Secessionists understood that. They also understood (and freely admitted) that their objective was to protect slavery. Why can’t you simply take them at their word? Are you saying the Confederacy was founded upon a lie?

          That would be counterintuitive indeed, but you are free to advance that argument.

          • Professor Simpson, on what are you basing your statement that the secessionists “freely admitted that their objective was to protect slavery?”

            • I base my statement upon what the secessionists themselves said. I assume you’ve read the ordinances of secession and the debates over secession. Are you saying the secessionists didn’t mean what they said?

              You can find many of those documents here.

              Here’s one. Read what Alabama’s governor Moore said:

              As the slave-holding States have a common interest in the institution of slavery, and must be common sufferers in its overthrow, I deemed it proper, and it appeared to be the general sentiment of the people, that Alabama should consult and advise with the other slave-holding States, so far as practicable, as to what is best to be done to protect their interests and honor in the impending crisis.

              Are you telling me that Governor Moore was a liar? That you know better than he what was at stake?

              Or how about this, from the Declaration of Causes of Secession from Mississippi:

              Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

              Are you telling me that these men of Mississippi were liars, too, and that they didn’t know what they were talking about … and that you know better than they why they acted as they did?

              For those of you who might not know Mr. Perkins, this should help. Or this.

              I had assumed that a student of Confederate history such as Mr. Perkins was already familiar with these documents. Perhaps not.

  2. An additional divide was the concern that a Black Republican Abolitionist administration would build a party in the South using patronage, appointing anti-slavery postmasters who would allow incendiary literature to pass, customs officers and judges, people like Helper.

    • That illustrates the disconnect in the logic that because Lincoln had no objection to the Corwin amendment, secession had nothing to do with slavery. I’ve even seen it argued that since no seceded state abandoned secession upon congressional passage of the Corwin Amendment, secession had nothing (or next to nothing) to do with slavery. Secessionists knew better: their apologists don’t (or they are engaged in a most reprehensible distorting of the record for other reasons).

      Hey … a new term … Secession Apologists! I like that. :)

  3. In addition, while previous presidents had been ambivalent about filibustering expeditions to Mexico, Central America, and Cuba to attempt to secure additional territory for slavery (the Quitman prosecution for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794 was a joke and ended in three hung juries in an early example of jury nullification), I don’t think anyone believed that Lincoln wouldn’t enforce the Neutrality Act.

  4. Guess if it has passed that would have prevented future US legislation like the Railroad labor Act, the Federal Employers Liability Act and the The Fair Labor Standards Act.

  5. There is one point that the Corwin Amendment undeniably illuminates and that is , the North did not fight the war to end slavery. The North passes an amendment to allow slavery (forever) in the South and then declares a war to free the slaves, surely not. I’m not seeing much of a moral upper hand here. The behavior of the North after victory sheds some light on the North’s true motivations I think – it was your basic war for conquest.

    • I’m sure you know that “the North” did not pass the amendment. Congress proposed it, but it was not ratified. And what about the behavior of “the South” (white southerners) after the war? Wouldn’t that suggest that the true motivation of white southerners was racial supremacy achieved through violence and coercion?

      So it would seem if we employ your logic. Thanks for pointing that out.

      • Seven Southern states had already withdrawn from the union at the time the Corwin amendment was passed and it did pass on March 2, 1861. Two days later his inaugural speech the great emancipator Abe Lincoln said he had no objection to its being made express and irrevocable. He had no objection to the permanent bondage of over 4 million people, if it would “save the union” I expect him to mean. It has the makings of what sounds like a noble cause but not so much if you are a black American. If it were admitted that the importance of saving the union included the raw desire to continue enjoying the revenue benefits of having the South as a part, I would be impressed with the honesty but not with the motive. I understand and admire (to a point)his intentions to do what ever he thought was needed to pacify the South and give them some means of contentment and complacency that would encourage them to stay in the union (much in the same way a slave owner would provide just
        enough perks that would allow a slave to persuade himself to stay on the
        plantation). If congress and Lincoln would have been successful in this, it could be said that they saved the union. In that, I mean the “real genuine article” of our union. They would have saved the political union, a union of voluntary association. As it stands, all that was saved was the geographical boundaries/the territorial union. The political union of voluntary association was destroyed. If you are not free to exercise the unalienable rights of independence, that were willed and bequeathed to us by the Revolutionary War generation, then the political freedom that they fought, killed and died for does not exist. We did not inherit it. The original political spirit of American politics does not exist if you are held into a political union by force. You are not a free people. The Corwin Amendment gave Congress the ability to grant white Southerners the irrevocable enslavement of their fellow black Southerners (thinking that was the only thing they desired) and yet the South rejected the offer and fired on Sumpter. The Corwin Amendment allows no alternative train of thought. The existence of slavery was not being threaten but in fact was being promised. Congress must have over estimated the South’s hunger for slavery, since their promise offering was rejected. That rejection would lead many to believe that gaining independence was the South’s main objective, being that the Corwin Amendment was granting slavery, rather than providing an incentive to rebel. The Corwin Amendment does not address the issue of slavery expanding into the new territories. Therefore, the antagonizing over just that one aspect of slavery would still be staring both
        sides right in the face. No, the moral and ethical issues surrounding slavery had no representation as far as the political power struggle between the two sides is concerned. It was just the radical variety of abolitionists in the North that threatened slavery. They were a minority of the general population of the North and also the minority holding a political office in the North. The evils of slavery, qualifying its abolishment, was a debate for the abolitionist and those same sentiments cannot be found in the actions of a government that would pass and did pass the Corwin Amendment. I was taught in the public school system that the Civil War was about slavery and how the South fought to keeps it’s slaves. I see now as an adult, the instruction I received is flawed. As an adult, I found myself coming across researchable and provable facts at random, that were not offered to me as a child and at
        times are in complete contradiction to the “child’s version” of the subject that I was taught. Now a find myself foraging for those same kinds of provable facts, that were omitted in the public school version of American History. They were not omitted by accident but by design I feel. The Corwin Amendment being only one of many interesting facts that I was not allowed to learn. The Corwin amendment passed with non-seceding states carrying the vote. Only 4 (pre-Confederate) states were left to vote on it. On February 28, 1861, the House approved Corwin’s amendment by a vote of 133 to 65. I am more inclined
        to believe that the South fired on Fort Sumpter with more of a commitment to independence than a commitment to slavery. They no longer needed their independence to keep their slaves, as slavery was granted to them via the Corwin Amendment but they fired on Anderson’s men at Fort Sumpter anyway. That is a rather strong rejection of an amendment that would gift away irrevocable slavery of black American’s. Congress must not have had a full grasp of why the South wanted their independence but thought that “throwing them a bone”
        in favor of slavery, must be all they want. They were wrong. The South
        wanted their independence regardless of slavery by the time they fired the first shot, as they rejected the concept of being given slaves to keep them in the union. The accusation is that the South’s only motive for declaring their independence, was over the issue of slavery but what aspect of it? It was not because of a threat by the government to abolish it, as is demonstrated by the Corwin Amendment. Was it solely because of the resistance to letting slavery expand into the new territories? (Territories that white Northerners did not want to share with blacks free or slave.) As the white population in the North increased, it displaced the need for slave labor as the whites wanted the jobs for themselves and did not want to compete with blacks free or slave. Was it the invention by a northerner (Eli Whitney’s cotton gyn) that made slave grown cotton that much more profitable for the South and the northern textile mills, bringing about just that much more animosity towards Southerners for not letting go of slavery? Where is the condemnation from the abolitionist of Eli Whitney and the enhanced profits from his invention, making slavery that much more difficult to get rid of? Was it in part do to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that painted all Southerners as the Simon LeGree variety of slave owner? How did that help relations? Stowe was a Northerner who visited the South one time in her life as I have read. She went to Kentucky one time and it was not for factual research on Southern slavery, yet her book at the time was taken as fact and fueled if not created the bigotry that is still in use today. The bigotry towards Southerners has a long history in and of itself with reasons that do not all stem from slavery. The suggested removal of George Washington’s body from Mt. Vernon, Virginia in 1831 and replanting him in Washington D.C., added to the “alienation of affection” of the two sections. The line of racial demarcation was not being kept as distinct in the South as in the North. This did not impress many Northerners who had not had any real interaction with blacks in their life time since enjoying the system of gradual emancipation that was not offered to the South. Too my understanding, it was felt that white Southerners were too familiar with their blacks to meet the approval of most Northerners. The racial prejudice that many white Northerners had for blacks, carried over to white Southerners because of the close relations brought about by 200 years and so many generations under the institution of slavery. In my reading I’ve found entries taken from quotes, that most Northerners felt the best characteristics of white influence were not finding their way into the South’s “Negro’s” or in most cases referred to as “nig_ers” and quite the reverse was true they felt about Southern whites. Their expressed opinion was that the worse traits of the “nig….(well lets just say “slave race” as exact quotes are not always needed), as they perceived those traits to be, were being adopted by Southern whites, therefore the degradation of white society, as some saw it. It caused many Northerners to contemplate disowning white Southerners as being nothing more than “light complexioned Negroes,” with whom they did not want to associate with anymore than they would the blacks. Any issue of slavery as a causative effect for the Civil War, is just the ink thrown into the pool to cloud the water. Oliver Wendel Holmes said “Union means millions lost to the South, while secession means millions lost to the North.” It’s also been claimed that electing a Republican for president (Abe Lincoln) contributed to the withdrawal of the Southern states and if it had been the reverse and a Democrat would have been elected, we would not have seen the secession of the Southern states but rather the secession of the Northern states. OK, so the South had slaves. In the regional history of the North the same is true. At the time the colonists rebelled against Great Britain and seceded from that union, every state in the new union under the Articles of Confederation had slaves but we don’t call that a slave owners secession nor do we condemn them for slavery with the same vigilance as we do the South. We are taught from childhood that secession and slavery are one in the same and are inseparable, because that is how the Civil War is taught. We are also taught that secession is un-American, although the Declaration of Independence is a secessionist document. Secession is a formal withdrawal from a society, such as a political society. Our country was built on secessionist movements or maneuvers. We seceded from the union under King George III and acceded to the Articles of Confederation. In a 3 year period we then seceded from the Articles and acceded to the new union under the US Constitution and did so without war. No one was forced to stay nor forced to go. Two separate democracies existed side by side for 3 years in our part of North America without a shot being fired about it. The New England states got together in Hartford Connecticut to seriously discuss secession but a the Southerner Andrew Jackson “saved the union” by defeating the British, by which the New England states no longer had the reason to secede. We recognized the right of Texas to secede from its union with Mexico and the same for Panama’s secession from Columbia. Secession is a very American political characteristic and not illegal. King George and Abe Lincoln did not like but it turned out OK for Abe. You won’t always get your way, even if you’re not in the wrong. The South learned that if not anything else. As long as there is a will and the power and resources to take what you want, might makes right. Conquer the Indians, assimilate them to be more like you and enjoy the benefits of what you took from them, their freedom and their land. Conquer the Africans and do the same. Enjoy what you took from them, their freedom and their labor. Conquer the Southerner and put him under Marshall law/military rule for 11 years add them to your list of underlings, enjoying all you took from them, their sovereignty as a people/their freedom. While you’re at it, take away the sovereignty of all the rest of the states by enacting (not Constitutionally ratifying) the 14th amendment. After all, you can’t be in the dual position of being the ruling class over 10 states of the union and still be expected to remain as mere public servants (what politicians used to be) to the rest. Tear off what’s left of American freedom and make yourselves at home at the expense of “we the people.” Define for the first time that we the people are US citizens. Before the 14th Amendment there was no such thing. You were the citizen of your own home state and that was all there was to it. You were a citizen your sovereign state. Not any more. Now you pledge allegiance to the flag of the conquering Northern government that emerged from the ashes of the Civil War. We are no longer in the position of being the employer and telling our paid public servants what we want done. We are now the public that serves our former public servants. We pay for a population of politicians the size of a rural farming community (about 676 people) to pass laws that have a direct impact on the daily lives of over 300 million people. They pass laws that are what is best for them and not what is best for “we the people” that pick up the tab. That is a lot of power for a very small group of people. You should be very concerned. As long as the people they govern over have firearms, they will be very concerned. The right to bear arms is in the US Constitution for no other reason, than to give the people the ability to protect themselves from an abusive government. The men that put it in there, had just finished doing that very thing. North loving South haters can bash the South all they want but they can’t change history. The South did not invent slavery. They did not even supply themselves their own slaves. The flag of the CSA never flew over a slave ship. The flag of the USA did. Starting with the Betsy Ross version in 1776, the flag of our country made it possible for the general public to own slaves. We sold to the Caribbean, South and Central American and to our own people in both sections, North and South. The New England slave trader enjoyed the profits of human trafficking and enabled others to participate in the institution by making slaves available. Our county’s involvement in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, had it’s humble beginnings not with blacks but with the native Indians of Massachusetts. The Peqot tribe. This was in 1637. The South never had to go get it’s own slaves and did not participate in the slave trade to the magnitude the New England states did. New England had the monopoly of the slave trade for OUR country. Only 6 percent of all slaves of the 20 million that were taken out of Africa over a 500 year period came to the colonies that were later known as the USA. Slavery existed in the Arabian peninsula until 1965 and in Brazil until 1888 and it still exists in the Sudan, yet we only focus on condemning the Southerners of our own county as if they invented the practice. The Africans in Africa sold their own people to the various countries that docked their slave ships on the West Coast of Africa. In 1830 census of New York 10 “men of
        color” owned 18 slaves. In the South, free blacks owning black slaves is not unheard of and yet is it only the white Southerner that is bashed for slavery and nobody else. Especially leaving out the Northern states for making slavery in this country possible by making slaves available. Yes, of course England was the biggest slave trader of them all but we are talking about laying the American blame for slavery solely on the South. Why? Because that is how it has been taught to children in the country for generations and has become the accepted version of American history no matter how misleading it really is. Why? Because the North won the war and to the victor go the spoils, which includes righting the history. The flag of our country, that we fly right now is just as much a symbol of slavery as the Confederate flag is wished to be and taught that it is. It is our symbol of political freedom from Great Britain but assisted in the enslavement of thousands upon thousands of blacks. Don’t point the finger of slavery at the South unless you are American enough to admit where the South got some of it’s slaves and how heavily
        invested both sections of our country were in the differing aspects of
        slavery. If slavery is the sole cause of the Civil War as some would suggest, than it is the doing of all of those who brought the slaves here, supplying the demand coming from both sections of the country, north and south alike, that made slavery possible. Starting in Africa by Africans, right down to the last and final stop for each ship load of slaves as they were sold and purchased by people in every colony and eventually every state in the union. The system of slavery as an institution is found in the regional history of both sections. The supplying of slaves via the slave trade and/or it’s various stages there of, is most readily found in it’s extreme, in the New England
        states and not the South. Our involvement in the slave trade started in the North and not the South. The flags of both sections have direct ties to slavery but we have to be sure to educate and continue to educate, every newgeneration of American after the Civil War, that only the South is to be held as the criminals and villains of our nation’s history. Why? Because of slavery. Through the one dimensional teaching of the subject, is it awny wonder why the South never quits fighting the war? It’s because the North never quits taking shots using hypocrite history.

        • Many of us Southrons of the old settler families already know most of this but it is good to see it put in proper order.
          Many of us do not want to be “US citizens” but Citizens of our own sovereign States, even if they are practically theoretical at this late date.
          Keep your “Socialist Party Membership Number” cards. We have them because most of us were sold to “Caesar” (usually known as “Uncle Sam”) for our parents’ old age security, which consists of nothing more than promises by one generation of politicians that another generation of politicians will steal money from workers and give it to non-workers (freeloaders). If we do not have a “Socialist Party Membership Number” card we are pretty much cut out of modern society. Very little buying and selling can be accomplished without providing the “Socialist Party Membership Number” that was foisted off on us, at some point in the transaction.
          Lincoln’s opposition to slavery, like that of many Abolitionists, was related more to the miscegenation that always goes on when men own women. Seeing “High Yallers” and Whites to all appearances on the slave dealers’ auction blocks was highly offensive to and motivated much of the Abolition cause.

    • The North didn’t start the war. the North’s motivation for accepting the war was reunification.
      the South started the war and their cause as they clearly stated time and again was Slavery.
      The driving force behind the War was the Southern Slaveocracy everything followed that.
      Like many Southern apologists you put things backwards and try to define the reasons for the war in the Northern response to the United States being attacked

      • If slavery was the cause of the war, what aspect of slavery was the cause? Not the abolition of it, as there was no threat of abolition made by the government, only by abolitionists who had no governmental power to push it through legal channels. They leaned on the government to do so but it never happened. We must be talking about opposing and differing reasons for the same war. Lincoln made it clear he was not fighting to be rid of nor preserve slavery. He told Horace Greeley that he was not fighting a war founded on the issue of slavery. He also said during the Lincoln – Douglas debates, he claimed he thought he had no right to interfere with the institution directly or indirectly and would not endeavor to do so. The constitutional right of slave ownership was upheld until January 1, 1863 when Lincoln announced his EP. This was after the firing on Fort Sumpter. So, from his point of view, or at least using Lincoln’s words and actions, the war was not about slavery but rather to save the union. I say Lincoln should have the final word on what the war was all about. He says it was to preserve the Union (he did not explain that it was in the best interests of the North to do so. Preserving the Union didn’t do the South any favors, nor did staying in it but then again, we are taught at a young age not to care about the best interests of the South) So, his war was to deny the unalienable rights of American citizens granted to them via the Declaration of Independence, (Lincoln proved that you could indeed be alienated from inheriting those intended rights) in the effort to save the union, even if by force. He saved the geographical boundaries of the union but not the political spirit of the union. The spirit of voluntary association was not preserved. It was no longer a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” in it’s entirety, based on the withdrawal of consent of the people of the seceding states. For those states it became goverment by the conquest of the people and created for them a catagory of political slavery to fall under. That is a denial of political freedom. Same as King George of England during the Revolutionalry War but he was not able to complete the task. Going back a little, Lincoln said during his anaugral address (in refering to the Corwin ammendment) he agreed to it being express and irrevocable. You can claim that the South started the war to preserve slavery but that would be erronious since slavery itself as an institution was never threatened with extinction. It was already a constitutional right and in 1857 with the Dred Scott case, it received additional aknowledgement. The threat of slavery’s extinction, would have to be felt, in order to start a war to save it. There is no proof that it was to be taken away, therefore no motive to start a war to save it. The facts show that the allowance to have slaves was granted and re-granted before the firing on Fort Sumpter. There was no incentive provided by the government to spurn the South to fight for slavery. An altimatum was never delivered to introduce or create a threat upon slavery by the government. There were no immediate demands made by the government aimed at the South to free it’s slaves. Not even forcasted for the near future. Slavery was never at risk of being abolished, not in the sense that it brought about the war. The North never used taunts and threats of removing slavery to entice the South to start a war. Just the opposite is true. They offered slavery as an incentive to stay in the Union but that offer was ignored as if the South was convinced that the North had missed the point and that slavery was not the point. The Corwin ammendment would have given the South yet an additional hold on slavery already provided for in the constitution and with the Dred Scott case. Where in our history is the evidence that the government antagonized the South with threats of freeing the slaves by law or by force? To the point of causing the South to start a war over? No, I can’t find the facts to support that theory (Lincoln claimed his motives were not that of abolishing slavery, just to save the Union.) If it is to be said that the war was over slavery, let’s be a little more precise and pin point what aspect of slavery started the war and at the same time, not be so obstinant and arrogant as to say that slavery (or any aspect there of) is the sole and exclusive cause of the war. That assertion is not historically accurate.

        • “I say Lincoln should have the final word on what the war was all about.”

          Fair enough. So let’s see what Lincoln said on March 4, 1865 …

          One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

          So it was “somehow” slavery after all. Thanks.

          • Good point. Slavery as an entire object was not the cause. Not the saving of it because the claim of taking it away had not been made and not on ethical or moral issues (moral and ethical objections to it, never made it to the political or military menu. Those views were personal beliefs and is where they stayed). A specific aspect is what I was looking for and you gave just that. The political power derived from slavery, is what the North and Abe Lincoln had issues with. To keep the South as much as a political underdog as possible, just short of war, was the initial desire. Let’s only give 3/5th value of white people to the blacks of the South. That will help us stay on top of the South ploitically, so we can have the most complete possible rule over the people of the country. If it comes to war……all the better. We will have the opportunity to conquere the South and be rid of it’s competition all together. They were succesfull and the belief that it is for the greater good and that we (even the South is expected to believe) are all better off for their defeat, is the frame of mind a person is expected to adopt, if they are to be considered a “real American”. If your not impressed with the North and not really a big fan, you are not considered a “real American” to those who are pro North. You have to love Lincoln along with George Washington, if you expect to qualify as a “real American” I don’t agree.

            • Yup, the 3/5 rule was a Yankee plot. It would have been so much better to allow white southerners to base representation on population, even if a healthy percentage of that population was enslaved. Right? But slaves are property, right? White southerners didn’t want to be taxed on that sort of property. Indeed, only when it came to political power did white southerners make the case that enslaved blacks and whites ought to be treated equally. Of course, once the blacks were free and allowed to vote, southern whites weren’t too wild about that. Another Yankee plot.

  6. Pingback: The Georgia SCV Lies About History–Corwin Amendment Edition «Student of the American Civil War Student of the American Civil War

  7. The blacks being allowed to vote, did not happen until the South was kicked out of the union for not ratifying the 14th ammendment, (1867) if I read it correctly. If giving the blacks the right to vote after denying sufferage to the whites, (which denying sufferage in that manner is prohibited in the constitution) was done in an effort to obtain a favored piece of legislation, then yes it was a plot. My views on the subject are from a position of not being able to have a position, if the sole issue was slavery. I can’t escape slavery, when I have the bullet of it coming down the barrel at me from both sides of my family, both North and South. I have a habit of being very cynical and sarcastic on the subject when I cannot hold one side up for admiration, as it is an accomplice to the same crime as the other, that being slavery. I am from Nebraska, we did not have a dog in the fight as we were not a state in the union yet. I have noticed that the existence of slavery in our nation’s history, is a yoke to be hung around the neck of the South exclusively, as if they invented the practice. I do not agree with that point of view and it does exist. That is what we came away with when we graduated from the public school system. I cannot blame our faculty for the misgivings of that teaching, as they were annointed with the same philosophy when hey were students. I cannot denounce one side for it’s participation in slavery without doing the same at the other. They were both collectively responsible. I would not however take the side of an accusitory coward who points the finger of blame on his accomplice. I would rather side with the eventual loser of the contest, than to be granted an ill gotten victory with all of the abuses and ommisions of facts and truths generated by the victor that would soon follow. In my case, the subject has no real debate, as I am a loser in the contest on both sides. Both of my flags, North and South have a direct association with slavery. There is no way for me to take a side without being a loser and or a hypocrite for doing so. I will take the hypocracy out of it and say that I find myself in a peculiar situation, that will not allow me to substantially take a side, if the sole issue was slavery. I cannot support either side given the regional histories of both involved but I clammer to do so, as I seem to have a need to belong somewhere on the issue. How to go about it without inflicting some form of embarrasment upon myself because of my ancestry, escapes me for the time being. Maybe you can enlighten me?

  8. That is a question that can be asked of anyone who posts a comment. If nobody took a side, there would be few debating the subject. If at all. Why do people take a side? Whatever that answer is or answers are, there is a reason behind it that supercedes remaining neutral or indifferent. What would be your answer to your own question?

  9. I’ve had a number of Civil War enthusiasts tell me lately that the 14th was not properly ratified and is therefore invalid. Is this something that is going around in certain circles?

    • It has been claimed that the terms of the ratification for the ten former Confederate states as a precondition to have their representatives in Congress seated rendered the ratification process problematic. One could say the same for the 13th Amendment, and anyone who would want to make a principled stand in that regard would have to include both amendments. That’s why one always raises the question, why do you believe this?

      See this comment from 1957.

      • What is always odd about that sort of claim is that unlike other arguments about, let’s say, was Longstreet trying to get a transfer west after Gettysburg just a career move, is that we have this thing called the Supreme Court that can settle the dispute.

        In my field, I hear the same nonsense about the citizenship clause of the 14th amendment. Hey, you don’t think it applies to brown people, go to court. Problem is, when they do, they learn a real history lesson.

    • When the Southern political body was allowed to retake their seats, they participated in the 13th Amendment vote and it passed. They voted on (not for) the 14th and it failed. Then they were kicked out of the Union for it, a Union they did not want to belong to anyway, in which they were told they could not leave. The North granted themselves some creative license with a lose interpretation of the Constitution. They allowed themselves to force their political will on the people (a constitutionally sanctioned activity according to North lovers, but I read the US Con. again and I cannot find where it is granted), the end result was a forced political Union instead of a Union by the consent of the people. The North also allowed themselves the luxury of ejecting anyone from the Union for a reason of their choosing. The concept is that you cannot leave the Union but we can kick you out. That is a text book example of what it is to have total control over a people. A well controlled body of subjects, not much freedom there if any. I guess when you win a war you can jerk your defeated opponent around at your own will (it must say that in the US Con. or else it would have never happened) The South was alternated in and out of political office as deemed necessary by the North. When the 14th was not ratified (with the assistance of some Northern States), the Northern congress told the South (just the South, Northern states were not picked on) that they were not qualified to vote because they were ex-Confederate soldiers of rank or Confederate politicians. Their affiliation with the Confederacy was the reason stipulated for their being denied suffrage. They were told that their votes did not count because of past offenses that disqualified them. This is called ex-post facto. The constitution prohibits ex-post facto laws. When enacted, are not done so through constitutional means and events of the past can be brought forward for punishment when no law existed at the time. You can be prosecuted retroactively. The war ended in April of 1865 but punishment for the Confederates, did not come till 1867, by way of denied voting rights. So, two examples of constitutional law had been ignored and or violated. The denial of voting by way of passing an ex-post facto law. Nice people to share a country with, not a selfish bone in their bodies. That leaves the ratification of the 13th Amendment, technically undetermined, since the Southern votes for ratification cannot be counted because of their status as ex-Confederates. The North did not have it all thought out to where it made any sense but that was irrelevant when you see the amount of control they took.
      Might makes right!

      • You might want to read up a little on Reconstruction before you offer your views. I don’t see much sense in picking apart your inaccurate statements. Suffice it to say that you aren’t well informed about the process of the ratification of the 13th Amendment or the status of the congressional delegations from the former Confederate states in later 1865 and 1866.

      • You seem unfamiliar with American history and Constitutional construction ZY Dezell. You can take an entire course on the Civil War era for free from Yale by clicking on this link:

        http://longislandwins.com/news/detail/free_online_yale_course_on_the_civil_war

        I’ll look around for an online course on the Constitution that will help you understand our legal structure.

        In the modern world of the internet, you can empower yourself through free educational opportunities.

  10. My views may not cater to your politically correct, emotional requirements but historical accuracy and political correctness are quite often at odds with one another. “Our legal structure” never stays the same, as the ruling class politicians and judges, are in constant habit of reinterpreting the intended spirit and letter of the laws. This practice in it’s boldest form started when Lincoln was elected. You interpret it in your own pro- North way (pretending that you’re not) and I’ll continue to believe that I have a reason to be a proud American. Difficult to do when our country has such a deep history of slavery but why let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch.

    • As you have yet to contest my rendering of the events under discussion, I’ll just say that historical accuracy and the Confederate correctness you profess are indeed often at odds with one another. No one’s questioned whether you’re a proud American. Indeed, no one’s discussed it at all. People have questioned your interpretations, and on those matters you’ve been silent. But when I hear someone complain about “political correctness” I take it as a confession that they realize that they can no longer prevail upon the merits of the case.

      Thanks again for stopping by and offering your perspective on history, other folks, and yourself. It’s been informative and entertaining. Take care.

  11. Good discussion. All wars are about money. If the UN told the US we had to give up our SUVs because they pollute the environment, it’s probable we’d leave the UN. Slavery wasn’t right or wrong, it was an economic system and the people born into the system black and white had their livelihoods at stake. The Corwin Amendment was a desperate measure by men who were in a panic over a possible war and certainly over the loss of federal tax revenue (money).

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