Oh, Really? Really?

Seen on a Civil War discussion group that has had trouble getting going:

“… the overwhelming majority of Southern citizens believed slavery secondary to Southern independence, that slavery was negotiable and disposable but that independence was not.”

Discuss.  I find the wording interesting and a key to challenging the accuracy of the assessment.

12 thoughts on “Oh, Really? Really?

  1. James F. Epperson September 22, 2011 / 4:36 am

    Given the extent to which white Southerners argued that Lincoln’s election meant the end of their “social institutions,” I find this statement tenuous in the extreme. I’d like to see MG support it.

  2. Ray O'Hara (@RAYOHARA) September 22, 2011 / 8:56 am

    a goodly number of Southerners still hold that belief today..
    on the FB page the majority of members or the most vocal are seemingly SCV members and one has been spamming the page with modern day pix of the CBF.

    when they make a claim they refuse to provide cites , but they are very good at demanding them{i provide them} they then dispute the cite or just start a new thread saying the same thing again.

    if you get a cite it is “well the notes in our family bible say this…”
    or “out family history says this…

    one claimed his family served under GW in the rev in NC and VA, when I pointed out that GW never campaigned in NC and only once in Va at Yorktown, the goal posts get moved and its “well GW was the GIC of the American Army so everybody in it served under him”

    One made the claim the guards at Andersonville suffered as bad as the prisoners and the South had no food, Sherman had found plenty of food I countered, so ghe said Sherman was in a different part odf the State, I again countered that that means that the Yankees were around to steal it.

    and of course slavery was not a cause, the cause was the Yankees invaded.

  3. David Rhoads September 22, 2011 / 9:37 am

    Limiting the statement to “Southern citizens” makes it possible to rhetorically sever the link between slavery and independence. Including the millions of slaves into the calculation would, of course, render the statement nonsensical.

    Also, the vague formulation “the overwhelming majority … believed” is problematic. I don’t know how one could possibly arrive at such a formulation using actual historical data.

  4. Margaret Blough September 22, 2011 / 10:42 am

    There’s also the bitter fight over Davis’s proposal to arm slaves in the dying days of the Confederacy. What was passed was considerably watered down. Even with the handwriting on the wall, very prominent white Southerners like Howell Cobb were decidedly NOT willing to countenance such a proposal in any form even if it were true that it was the only way Confederate independence could be obtained.

    • EarthTone September 27, 2011 / 12:38 pm

      Yes, it’s important to note that the legislation passed by the Confederate Congress did NOT free any slave, or offer freedom to any slave.

      Men like R E Lee had recommended that slaves be offered freedom for their service, otherwise their loyalty would be questionable. The Congress could not bring itself to do this, even with the Confederacy on the brink of collapse. However, the Davis administration did issue orders which specified that only slaves who had been manumitted by their masters could serve in the army.

      Soon after the law passed and the orders issued, Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

      From http://www.vectorsite.net/twcw_83.html

      The Confederate Congress was presented with a bill to make slaves into soldiers. Although the bill carefully tiptoed around the issue of freeing the soldier-slaves, the reaction was still loud and outraged.

      Howell Cobb wrote from Georgia, speaking for many others: “Use all the Negroes you can get, for the purposes for which you need them. The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong.”

      Virginia Senator R.M.T. Hunter, president pro-tempore of the Confederate Senate and one of the biggest slaveowners in the South, was even more blunt: “What did we go to war for, if not to protect our property?” Of course, he meant the two-legged sort of property; at least he wasn’t playing word games about State’s Rights.

      …Davis replied: “If the Confederacy falls, there should be written on its tombstone: DIED OF A THEORY.”

  5. Margaret Blough September 22, 2011 / 10:43 am

    Ray, I wonder if your “my ancestor served under Washington” guy would react (he probably wouldn’t believe it) if he had a clue as to how strong a nationalist Washington really was.

  6. John Foskett September 22, 2011 / 10:50 am

    Hmmm – I wonder why this group is having difficulty getting off the ground.

  7. Al Mackey September 22, 2011 / 8:26 pm

    Typical of that person. We have the conflation of “southern” with “confederate” as if the two were one and the same, when very clearly Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware all stayed loyal and didn’t fight for confederate independence, and every confederate state except South Carolina were represented by white units in the Union Army. Limiting it to “citizens” allows him to exclude the opinions of southern African Americans who aided the Union war effort by providing information to Federal commanders and helped Union soldiers. He no doubt points to Cleburne and his proposal, conveniently leaving out what happened to that proposal. He also probably talks about Davis’ diplomatic ploys and probably mischaracterizes the confederate bill to arm slaves in 1865.

    This letter to the Macon Telegraph found at Jim Epperson’s site is probably more indicative of opinion in the confederate states:


  8. marcferguson September 23, 2011 / 5:32 am

    I think we need to see some actual historical evidence demonstrating the contention that most (white) Southerners would have willingly traded slavery for independence. When and where does this evidence/sentiment actually show up? Are we talking newspaper editorials? Personal letters/diaries? The public or private statements/expressions of Confederate officials, Southern business leaders, community leaders?

  9. BorderRuffian September 23, 2011 / 9:43 am

    “…overwhelming majority…”

    That would be difficult to know. But at least some did.

    Jefferson Davis proposed emancipation in exchange for foreign recognition. Lee advised a plan of general emancipation.

  10. marcferguson September 23, 2011 / 4:30 pm

    Our friend, the terrorist sympathizer (that’s what it meant to be a “BorderRuffian,”) is correct. According to Bruce Levine, in his book _Confederate Emancipation_ at the end of 1864, when matters were desperate for the Confederacy, Davis made an overture to France and England for recognition and assistance in exchange for emancipation: “At the end of December 1864, Jefferson Davis decided to make a last bid to persuade Britain and France to come to his aid. Through the intermediary of Louisiana planter and congressman Duncan F. Kenner, Davis would at last offer gradual emancipation of the slaves in exchange for diplomatic recognition.” [p. 111] Note that Levine characterizes this as a “last bid,” and let’s contrast this “gradual emancipation” with the immediate emancipation given by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, that hardly sounds like a deep and ringing preference for independence, at the expense of ending slavery.

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