Friday, January 28, 2011

Kansas Joins the Union

John Brown
Today, 150 years ago, Congress voted for Kansas to join the Union. The history of Kansas was very important in the conflict that resulted in the Civil War.

One of the main issues before the war was the debate over whether the states that wished to enter the Union would forbid or allow slavery. The slave states wished to add more states to preserve their representation in Congress, and the free states wanted slavery to be forbidden. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 created two territories and said that the inhabitants could choose the new state's position on Slavery. This lead to a race of immigration between the pro-slavery "Border Ruffians" and the "Free-Staters." John Brown, who would later lead the attack on Harper's Ferry, went to Kansas to attempt to outlaw slavery by force of arms. Under his leadership the two factions came into conflict in what was called "Bleeding Kansas." Two competing governments were started, and several constitutions were written. Eventually the Free-Staters prevailed and the people adopted the Wyandotte Constitution.

On February 15th, 1860 a bill was introduced into the Senate to admit Kansas into the Union under that constitution. The bill was delayed by the South for almost one year, but their power was broken on January 21st when ten Southern senators withdrew from the senate because several states had seceded. The South's power was gone, and the bill was passed 36 to 16 and was signed by the president on January 29th.

This episode showed that since many of the Southern states had seceded, the South had lost its power. The remaining slave holding states no longer had the power to resist the North, and it appeared that unless the North tried to conciliate them and preserve the Union, they too would be forced to secede.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Secession in the Upper South

Today Louisiana voted to secede 113 to 17, becoming the sixth state to secede.

At the time of the Civil War the south at the time of the Civil War could be divided into two portions, Deep South and Upper South. The Deep South contained states such as South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Georgia, etc. The Upper South was closer to the North – Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, etc. While both held slaves, the Deep South was the first to secede after the election of Lincoln. However the Upper South was still with the Union when Lincoln was inaugurated. They trusted that the Republicans would not attempt to abolish slavery and that they would try to work out an agreement such as the Crittenden Compromise. This was the situation that many states were in at this point, 150 years ago. However, their representatives in Washington warned the North not to attack the states that had left. One said,
Believe me, the moment you wage war, you array the entire South, as one man, in behalf of the portion that is attacked, It is as when a brother is assailed, all the brethren rush to his rescue, not stopping to inquire whether, in the contest, he be right or wrong.1
The future would prove that in general, this statement was correct.

1. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/22/no-better-southern-man/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Georgia Secedes

Georgia Delegation to Congress
150 years ago today, January 19th, Georgia voted to secede from the Union with a vote of 208 to 89. They were the fifth state to secede. Ten days later they also adopted a document in which they explained to the world their reasons for leaving the Union. You can read it here.

Georgia said that there had been a long disagreement over slavery, but they had ignored the problems because they wished to remain in the Union. The Constitution gave them the the right to have their escaped slaves returned, but the North refused to do so. All the debate was brought to a head with the choice of the North for Lincoln as their President.
Our Northern confederates, after a full and calm hearing of all the facts, after a fair warning of our purpose not to submit to the rule of the authors of all these wrongs and injuries, have by a large majority committed the Government of the United States into their hands. The people of Georgia ... have declared with equal firmness that they shall not rule over them.
The declared mission and purpose of the Republican party to which Lincoln belonged was to oppose slavery. Georgia did not wish to remain in a union that was seeking to overthrow them, so they voted to leave the Union:
For twenty years past the abolitionists and their allies in the Northern States have been engaged in constant efforts to subvert our institutions and to excite insurrection and servile war among us. They have sent emissaries among us for the accomplishment of these purposes. Some of these efforts have received the public sanction of a majority of the leading men of the Republican party in the national councils, the same men who are now proposed as our rulers

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More States Secede

Mississippi's representatives in Congress

In the past few days, 150 years ago, three more states seceded from the Union. First Mississippi on January 9th, then Florida on January 10th, and Alabama on January 11th. Mississippi was the only one of the three to publish a lengthy document declaring the causes that impelled them to desire to leave the Union of the United States. I will discuss some of the most interesting and important reasons that they gave in A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union here. You can read the complete document from which these quotes were taken here.


Mississippi started out by acknowledging that they were leaving the Union because of slavery - "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world." While there may have been other minor reasons for the first states to leave the Union, the major one was that the Federal Government was trying to abolish slavery. However, as we will discuss later, just because they seceded because of slavery did not mean war. The real question was whether the states had the right to secede.

Fugitive Slave Law

It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.
The rights of slaveholders were protected in the Constitution by it declaring that escaped slaves had to be returned. However, this part of the Constitution was ignored by the North and the legislatures of the states passed laws saying that escaped slaves did not have be returned. Since the Northern States had broken the Constitution, Mississippi believed that they no longer were required to stay in the Union.


It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice.

It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists.
Several times Mississippi pointed to the fact that there was division in the Union – one half was trying to overthrow the other. It was not to their benefit to remain a part of a nation which was trying to overthrow the Southern States.

John Brown

It has invaded a State, and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives.
In this argument they were trying to show that the Northern states really desired to overthrow the South by pointing out John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. John Brown, a fanatic criminal, was sent and financed by six prominent Northern abolitionists. While the raid was a failure, it spread fear through the South because the abolition movement had reached a point where some would attack the South rather than continue to leave the Negroes in bondage. At first the Northern papers called the attackers what they were – criminals, but eventually the view changed through the speeches and writing of men like Ralph Waldo Emerson, the famous author, who said: "[John Brown is] that new saint, than whom none purer or more brave was ever led by love of men into conflict and death,--the new saint awaiting his martyrdom, and who, if he shall suffer, will make the gallows glorious like the cross." Mississippi believed that it could separate from states who were glorifying men who had been sent to murder them and take their slaves.


Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.

Our decision is made. We follow their footsteps. We embrace the alternative of separation; and for the reasons here stated, we resolve to maintain our rights with the full consciousness of the justice of our course, and the undoubting belief of our ability to maintain it.

Alabama's representatives in Congress


Also of note is that when Alabama passed its resolution to secede, it invited at the same time all of the slave holding states to a meeting on February 4th to consider forming a union. This meeting of course resulted in the Confederate States of America, but we will wait to discus that until the proper time.

Monday, January 10, 2011

South Carolinians fire on Star of the West

Star of the West
150 years ago yesterday the first shots of the Civil War occurred when a group of South Carolinians fired on the Star of the West which was trying to relieve Fort Sumter.

President Buchanan’s policy when dealing with the secession crisis was to try to buy time for the Congress to work out the problems. So he was reluctant to condemn or support Anderson in Charleston harbor. However, he decided to send 250 troops along with supplies to Fort Sumter, but in a civilian steamer – the Star of the West. He hoped that this would be less inflammatory towards the Southerners, and also its shallower draft would allow it to approach the fort more easily.

Charleston was prepared to meet the threat. They had been informed about the sending of the ship by one of Buchanan’s cabinet members, who had resigned over the decision. They tried to put some obstructions in the channels, as well as build a battery which was manned by cadets from the Citadel, a military college in South Carolina.

The Star of the West arrived early on the morning of January 9th, but they had to wait until daylight to navigate through the channel. They were hailed by a patrol ship and asked who they were, but they did not answer. Therefore the patrol ship fired a rocket, alerting the batteries of the hostile ship. When it reached the harbor, it was greeted by the fire of the new battery. These were the first shots of the Civil War. The relief ship signaled to Fort Sumter for help, but as they were the only ones in Charleston who did not know the ship was coming, they were not prepared to meet the threat. By the time they were ready to lend aid to the Star of the West, she was already turning back after being hit several times by the shots from the batteries. Anderson decided not to start the war by opening fire on the batteries.

This event, surprisingly, did not immediately precipitate the war. The governor of South Carolina asked Major Anderson to surrender, and he said that he could not without asking for instructions from Washington. Therefore he was allowed to send a messenger there. Even though the war did not begin here, he set it on a course that would result in conflict.

Star of the West
Note: If you want to know why we do not post on Sunday, get a copy of Sanctified by God.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Causes of the War - Slavery

Slavery was the main cause of the secession of the deep South states, and it is what most people today believe was the cause of the war. But there are many misconceptions about what slavery was like, and whether or not it was a good thing.

Cruelty of Slavery

The book that had the greatest influence on the Northern and modern perception of slavery is Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. That book caused many of the Northerners to believe that slaves were being tortured and needed to be freed, and that view continues until today. The problem is Harriet Beecher Stowe gave an incorrect picture of how slavery actually was. Not that the stories contained in her book were not based on fact – many of them were. But Stowe said they all happened to one family. It would be like someone today finding every horrible story about child abuse in the newspaper and writing a book saying they happened to one family. And what may seem cruel to us today would have been normal at that time. For example, beating. Slaves were beaten from time to time, but at the same time sailors were sometimes beaten with thousands of lashes. Practices which would have been normal at the time seem very evil to us today.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Racial Reasons

Many people think that the Southerners believed that people with darker skin were a lesser race or not even people at all. Unfortunately, this view was held by some, but not all, of the people in the South. But this view was held by the Northerners as well. They believed that the slaves should be free, but that did not mean that they thought they should have the same rights as whites. Interracial marriages were illegal in most of the Northern states. Abraham Lincoln and others believed that after the slaves were freed they should be sent to colonies in Africa. Lincoln said, "Free them, and make them politically and socially, our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not."1 And, "[I]t does not follow that social and political equality between whites and blacks, must be incorporated, because slavery must not."2 So while some in the South did view blacks as a lesser race, the same view was held by many in the North.

Slave Market in Atlanta, Georgia

Slavery in the Bible

One of the main reasons that the abolitionists claimed that slavery was wrong was because it is forbidden by the Bible. However, this is not true. While we do not have the space for a deep exegesis, I will give an overview of the reasons. In the Old Testament there were two different types of slavery which God commanded. If an Israelite sold himself into slavery, he must be let go after serving for seven years unless he wished to stay longer. However, if the Israelites captured prisoners when attacking a foreign nation, they were slaves forever. Many great Biblical figures were slaveholders, and in the New Testament God commanded masters to be just to their servants and servants to obey their masters. Never does the Bible forbid slavery or condemn slaveholders.

The Bible and Southern Slavery

When we compare Southern Slavery to the Bible we see several problems. First, the slavery was based partially on race. There were examples of white slaves and black masters, but that was not the norm. Second, the slaves were obtained in an unrighteous manner. The Slave Trade was clearly wrong, but as we have discussed before, it was illegal at the time of the war. Third, Christian slaves were not freed after seven years. While it is not expressly commanded in the Bible, we can assume that if a slave became a Jew, they would be freed after seven years like the normal Hebrew slaves. However, this was not practiced in the South. These are the major problems that I see with Southern Slavery.

The correct way to remedy these was not to abolish slavery. When this was done it caused bitterness against the former slaves by their former owners. The Bible commanded perpetual slavery for the pagans so that they could be transformed into productive members of society by becoming Christians. That process was not complete, therefore many of the descendants of the Civil War era slaves are slaves today to the government through welfare and other entitlement programs. They have continued to act like pagans in some ways, which results in a high murder rate in inner cities and a high illegitimate birth rate.

1. Political Speeches and Debates of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas edt. Alonzo T. Jones. Source. p. 9
2. The Writings of Abraham Lincoln: 1858-1862. (New York: The Lamb Publishing Company, 1906) Source. p. 16