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Letter: What caused Civil War? The South answered

Jan 11, 2024

I enjoyed Andrew Napolitano's column Sunday which went to great length to accuse historians of trying to hide or confuse the "real" cause of the Civil War, a question that embarrassed Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley recently.

He, and Haley, could have answered the question much more easily. All they had to do was ask the people who started -- and lost -- the Civil War "Why did you do it?"

They told us. "We're doing this to preserve slavery," they said.

Not states' rights. Not, as Napolitano says, some weird interpretation of Thomas Jefferson's or James Madison's understanding of the union. Not what Union soldiers wrote home. Not Lincoln's pronouncements.

Southern secession bill after bill cites slavery, first or second.

Mississippi "Declaration of the immediate causes" of secession: "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery the greatest material interest of the world."

Alabama Secession Convention resolution of resistance: "... whereas a sectional party known as the Black Republican Party has ... elected Abraham Lincoln to the office of President ... upon the avowed principle that the Constitution of the United States does not recognize property in slaves ..."

Virginia Secession Convention: "Resolution 2: African slavery is a vital part of the social system of the States wherein it exists ... any interference to its prejudice by the federal authority or authorities of other states, or by the people thereof, is in derogation from plain right, contrary to the Constitution, offensive and dangerous."

And so on.

I'm not sure why Haley or Napolitano need it to be complicated. Talk about states rights, or Jefferson, or Lincoln all you want, but those are just justifications, the "how" of secession.

It is clear the "why" of secession is slavery.

Southerners said so. We should take them at their word.

Charles Trentelman



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