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How to successfully debate a Yankee or Scalawag on the Issues of the Confederacy - Part I

Christopher Rice
Wednesday, September 02, 2015 17:57 PM

In this article I will be discussing the common arguments given by anti-Confederates.  They range from the causes of war, slavery, racism, and more.  I have given consideration to each argument and given my answer as accurately as possible.

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   1.  Confederates are/Seccession is for traitors.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, in the second paragraph, penned the following: “… governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” [Author emphasis]  The key word in this statement is consent.  The British government recognized each of the thirteen colonies as a free and independent state is possession of its own sovereignty.  The states did not intend to create a superior to sit in judgment of them, but rather intended to, and did, create a co-ordinate government.  This federal government was to only have these powers the states did specifically delegate to it.

In the Virginia Act of Ratification of the United States Constitution “We, the delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected,… in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known, that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them, whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression; and that every power not granted thereby, remains with them and at their will: that, therefore, no right, of any denomination, can be canceled abridged, restrained or modified.”

John C. Calhoun, from the senate floor stated that “It declares that all powers granted by the Constitution, are derived from the people of the United States; and may be resumed by them when perverted to their injury or oppression; and that every power not granted remains with them, and at their will; and that no right of any description can be canceled, abridged, restrained or modified by Congress, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the President, or any department, or officer of the United States.  Language cannot be stronger.”

Each state held its own power, and under their own approval, consented to the government additional powers not held by the state itself.  Each state held the right to revoke that power as they saw fit.  Simply put, seccession was quite legal and right held in power of the states.  This was even taught at West Point.  In a textbook used at West Point from 1826 until 1865, written by James Kent and titled “Commentaries on American Law.”  It stated “No one nation had a right to force the way of the liberation of Africa, by trampling on the independence of other states; or to procure an eminent good by means that were unlawful; or to press forward to a great principle, by breaking through other great principles that stood in the way”

  1. Slavery was the cause for the war.

First it must be asked that if the south was fighting to keep slavery then who was trying to end it that would have caused the south to exercise their desire to secede?  The answer is quite simple-- no one.

The Corwin Amendment would have allowed, among other things, the rights of individual states to continue slavery forevermore.  This amendment, which is still pending ratification, was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and was set forth by northern legislatures.  It was signed by then President James Buchanan, and endorsed later by President Abraham Lincoln.  Three Northern states ratified this amendment but zero southern states.

Lincoln stated, in a September 18, 1858 debate in Illinois, that I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

Additionally, in another debate, Lincoln states, “Such separation, if ever effected at all, must be effected by colonization; and no political party, as such, is now doing anything directly for colonization. Party operations at present only favor or retard colonization incidentally. The enterprise is a difficult one; but "when there is a will there is a way;" and what colonization needs most is a hearty will. Will springs from the two elements of moral sense and self-interest. Let us be brought to believe it is morally right, and, at the same time, favorable to, or, at least, not against, our interest, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do it, however great the task may be.”

Depending on the source, only between four and six percent of white southerners owned slaves.  The south also had a higher population of free men and women of color then the north.  Additionally three northern states still held slaves; both facts coming from the 1860 census records.  Part of this reason is that several states in the north made it illegal for blacks or Indians to live within the boundaries of the state including Illinois; Lincoln voted for this.  Virginia, a southern state, on the other hand, spoke out against, and made illegal the slave trade very soon after becoming a state—the first to do so in the civilized world.  In New York City, Yankees kidnapped free blacks and sold them into slavery. There were 33 such cases in one year alone. Free states indeed.

  1. In the cornerstone speech given by Vice-President Stephens, he says slavery was the cause for seccession.

This is actually an untrue misconception.  Stephens actually named many changes to the Confederacy as opposed to the Union.  One of the changes, which he does state lastly as the cornerstone, is the right to slavery.  He did not, however, state this was a reason for seccession.  One has to remember that no one was trying (other then abolitionists) to officially end slavery.  The sentiment that he expressed was not different then others of his day.  Many people believed in the right of slavery, however unjust it may have been.  Take for example the northern states that still held legal slavery.  Another example is the legislatures that passed the Corwin Amendment.  Stephens did say that the negro was not equal to the white man; Lincoln did say the same exact thing.  Most southerners did have the idea that slavery should end through eventual emancipation, exactly as some northern states had done.  This would allow time for education, job creation, etc. to allow blacks to not be left “high and dry” and be able to provide for themselves.  Very few had the fire-eater stance.

Do not also forget that other states, namely Missouri and Maryland wanted to join the Confederacy even after this speech.  These states are now considered free states in history.

  1. The Southern economy could not support a nation.

In 1860, if the South would have been an independent nation their economy would have ranked as the third highest in the European and American continents.  The south had one-third of the nation’s railroad mileage, plus streams and rivers that did not freeze.  The south was behind the north in railroad mileage, but still higher then any other nation in the world.  The south had a per capita income ten percent higher than all states west of New York and Pennsylvania.  This was partly due to the income of the slave trade/kidnapping in the New England states.

Of course, there are many other topics of debate regarding the Confederacy and the South before, during, and after the War Between the States all the way through the current era.  We will address some of these topics in a follow up article.  Please let us know in the comments below if there are certain topics we need to address or even if you do not agree with what we have said.  We love having feedback from our readers.  If you enjoyed this article, please share it, thanks!

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