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The U.S. Civil War 1861-1865

(This class is a work in progress and will be updated frequently)

"At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

Abraham Lincoln's Lyceum Address titled "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions". January 27, 1838.

President Lincoln's words remind us that to survive as a democracy we must transcend our racial, religious, regional and party affiliations, and embrace the Constitution and the rule of law.

(Although, arguably he broke a few laws himself)

To truly understand the nature of contemporary America and her character, one must have a comprehensive understanding of The American Civil War. This understanding should be derived from multiple disciplines and perspectives on the background and events leading up to the the war, the war itself, and the lasting aftermath of events which still resonate today. The following is an outline of some of the prominent events and a comprehensive inquiry into what started out as a bitter dispute over states rights and became an all out war over the meaning of freedom.

Colonial Foundations and the Main Pillars of Southern Culture:

1. Staple Crop Agriculture:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Rice, Tobacco, Cotton, became the economic backbone of the south.

2. The plantation System:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Patterns of large land holdings were established, the influence of climate and geography was conducive to agriculture, the Headright System and Indentured Servitude, the Byrd family of Virginia typified traditions of deference to planter aristocrats and their descendants. The Cavalier Myth-birthright of descendants' of English aristocracy. Planter aristocrats came to dominate social and political institutions of the South.

3. Slavery and the South's Racial Caste System:                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Tannenbaum Thesis-Slave and Citizen, English American Slavery differed from slavery in other societies because it was focused on skin color alone. The Winthrop  Jordan Thesis-claimed that racism caused slavery before slavery caused racism. On the origin of slavery in English America, there is evidence that the first African arrivals shared the same status as white indentured servants. So why did the status of the black servant deteriorate into that of full blown slavery? One possible explanation is that Virginia and Maryland set the pattern in the years between 1619-1662. Surviving evidence, mostly in the form of court records, suggests that 1619-1630 not all indentured servants were equal, 1630's a clear pattern of discriminatory treatment of black servants, 1640's discriminatory punishment began to reduce the status of black servants to a lifetime of servitude and often extended to their children. 1650's Evidence in inventories and servant sales shows that a slavery status had evolved without yet being defined by law. Finally, in the 1660's slavery was defined as a legal status beginning with the 1662 and 1664 Statutes in Virginia and Maryland. These are state statutes not federal statutes.

The Issue of Slavery During the Revolutionary and Constitutional Era:

1. The South's "Peculiar Institution:"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Slavery and racism existed in all 13 colonies. Thomas Jefferson wrote with reference to slavery: "We have the wolf by the ears and we can neither safely hold him nor safely let him go. Justice is in one end of the scale and self-preservation is in the other." Many Revolutionary leaders tried "to place slavery on a course of ultimate extinction." Slavery was gradually eradicated in Northern states, Manumission laws in the South was incentive to free slaves, efforts to confine slavery in states where it already existed, The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 prohibited slavery from entering the old Northwest Territory, (Jefferson's 1784 attempt to get the Confederation Government [not to be confused with the Confederate South] to adopt a law outlawing slavery in nationally owned territory failed to pass by one vote, there were efforts to end the slave trade itself striking at the heart of the supply.

2. The Constitution and the Issue of Slavery: The creation and preservation of the Union took priority over the debates that most leaders had about slavery. Who were the Founding Fathers? What was their socio-economic status? What was their interest in forming a new nation and on who's behalf? How many actual founding fathers were there in relation to the populations of the 13 colonies? Minority (number wise) vs majority. James Madison, one of the foremost founders argued that the new constitutional system must be designed in such a way that measures will be put in place to "protect the minority of the opulent against the majority". The U.S. Constitution did not specifically mention slavery but gave implicit sanction to the institution of slavery by prohibiting congress from outlawing the slave trade until 1808. These issues and others would greatly fuel the debate over Federal authority over State authority. Article 1. Section 9.1. (The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year 1808, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person). Counting 3/5ths of the slaves for purposes of apportioning taxes and representation in the HOR. Article 1. Section 2.3. (Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included in the Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons). Providing for the recovery of fugitive slaves. Article IV. Section 2.3. (No person held to service in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due). This issue brought up interesting debates about State Sovereignty, which the South argued trumped federal authority. Yet the South wanted to force Northern States to abide by federal law. Equally important is what the Constitution does not say. Silence on the question of whether Congress had any authority over slavery in nationally owned territory left room for heated debate on this one narrow aspect of the slavery issue. Free Soilers made claim that Congress did in fact have constitutional authority. Article IV. 3.2. (The Congress shall have power to dispose and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States. Pro-slavery claimed that any Congressional prohibition on slavery in the territories would violate a part of the 5th Amendment: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of the law". In addition to the aforementioned issues, the balance of power within the Congress itself became at times a heated debate. Especially over the admittance of Free States and Slave Holding States to the Union. Democratic Senator Preston Brooks beat Republican Senator Charles Sumner nearly to death on the senate floor after Sumner denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1856.

The Missouri Compromise and King Cotton:

Cotton:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It could be argued that slavery was on a course of ultimate destruction. However, some prominent events played a key role in revitalizing the profitability of slavery. There are two main types of cotton, Sea Island (long staple) and Inland (short staple) Cotton. It could take a person 10 hours to separate the seed and produce a pound of lint. Ely Whitney invents the Cotton Gin in 1793 and makes the production of Inland Cotton quite feasible. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson purchases the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon and opens up new land for agriculture. As the shift of planters moved south and west, a new breed of frontier bred aristocrats arose. Along with it rose the new addition of Slave States to the Cotton Belt.

Missouri Compromise:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Missouri applied for statehood in 1818. The Talmadge Amendment of 1819 was an attempt to prohibit the further introduction of Slavery into Missouri: All children born of slaves after Missouri becomes a state would be free at the age of 25. This raised the issue of congressional authority over slavery in the national territories. The compromise was suggested by Senator Henry Clay and passed in 1820 as the Thomas Amendment. The provisions included, admission of Missouri as a state without the Talmadge Amendment, admission of Maine as a free state, and prohibited slavery from all Louisiana Purchase Territory north 36°30′ except Missouri. The implication of this was slavery was ok in the south. The second compromise over Missouri's constitutional provisions prohibited free blacks from entering the state. The aftermath of these heated debates were described by Thomas Jefferson to be "Like a Fireball in the Night."

South Carolina's Nullification Doctrine and Denmark Vessey

Prelude to Civil War: Historian William Freehling, in his thesis, postulated that in 1832 Nullification was invoked because the South feared congress would someday interfere with slavery. This fear was rationalized because congress had passed a succession of tariff laws. The Corollary Thesis: South Carolinians first began to develop the nullification doctrine and other state's right's theories to protect themselves from their own slaves and from outsiders whom they perceive to be agitators to the establishment of Southern Aristocratic culture.  

The South and Especially South Carolina Haunted by the Specter of Slave Rebellion- Side note:(François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture-Haitian Revolution-Napoleon-Thomas Jefferson-Louisiana Purchase 1803). Because of the aforementioned, the South had been haunted by the specter of a successful slave rebellion. Especially in South Carolina where heavy concentrations of newly arrived Africans in the costal areas of the state; as South Carolina was the last state to stop importation of Africans. The environment and crops favored large work crews and large acreages of land. Unhealthy malaria filled swamps encouraged absentee ownership which left costal lands mainly populated by black slaves who were recent arrivals and whom whites perceived to be threatening. It was also theorized that blacks coming from Africa were inherently immune to malaria which also encouraged the use of blacks from Africa.