Math debunks Myth again. Here we address the question of how much of the Civil War was driven by the the issue of slavery. We calculate that issues not connected to Slavery took up a mere 15% of the conversation. As Jason Newell will explain the “not associated with slavery” portion at 15% is actually being rather kind.
By Jason Newell
You know what? It’s time to put “the Civil War wasn’t about slavery” bullshit to rest. In recent weeks, I have come across incredibly uninformed statements regarding American History on social media (a possible consequence of public school curriculum not thoroughly explaining, or even disregarding, important aspects of African-America history)—in particular, the argument centered on the institution of slavery not being the primary catalyst of the Civil War. And while I commend certain media outlets in their attempt to dispel this false notion, their analyses have fallen upon deaf ears. That is why I find it necessary to topple this myth—and I will do so with a methodical approach. The most referenced historical events related to the Civil War, or not related for that matter, will be categorized in three ways:
1) Associated with slavery.
2) Not associated with slavery.
3) Likely associated with slavery (included as a consequence of some causes, or events, being on the fence).
For example, let’s say the event was the Dred Scott decision—it would be listed as “Dred Scott decision (associated with slavery),” along with an explanation as to why it’s related. It’s really that simple! So, let’s topple the Stupidparty myth of slavery not being the primary cause of the Civil War. Here are the causes that I have determined to be associated with slavery (in a list format, but not in chronological order):
Associated with slavery.
1) The Institution of Slavery
2) The Dred Scott Decision (associated with slavery)
The Supreme Court’s holding that a slave was considered the property of his master.
3) The Abolitionist Movement (associated with slavery)
The movement’s primary goal was to dismantle slavery.
4) The Harriet Beecher novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (associated with slavery)
Written in order to reveal the harsh realities of slave life.
5) The Underground Railroad (associated with slavery)
A network of routes for African-American slaves to escape slavery. What was the response of angry slave owners? To pass the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
6) The Missouri Compromise (associated with slavery)
Everyone that has gone to grade school knows about this one. It was designed to ban the expansion of slavery north of the 36°30′ parallel—it was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
7) John Brown (associated with slavery)
The abolitionist who attacked Harper’s Ferry in order to liberate slaves—he was inspired by the immoral system of slavery.
8) Raid on Harper’s Ferry (associated with slavery)
See #7 above.
9) Election of Lincoln (associated with slavery)
Lincoln, in a speech delivered in 1859, said the following about slavery:
“I think Slavery is wrong, morally, and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union.”
10) Southern Secession (associated with slavery)
First of all, look at this excerpt from Missouri’s declaration of secession:
“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth”
And check out this gem from Texas’s declaration of secession:
“ [The North] Proclaiming the debasing doctrine of the equality of all men, irrespective of race or color – a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of the Divine Law”
These are but two examples of Confederate State’s citing slavery as a justification to secede from the Union. By the way, I don’t
see much about “tariffs” in these formal declarations.
11) Fort Sumter (associated with slavery)
After South Carolina seceded, it attacked Fort Sumter (a U.S. Army post). The South was the first to attack, the North did not take any offensive measures until several days later—the war would be more aptly named if it was called the “The War of Southern Aggression.”
12) Constitutional question of slavery/Three-Fifths Compromise (associated with slavery)
Slavery was ingrained in the formation of U.S. Constitution: for one, pro-slavery Founders wanted African-Americans to be counted for political representation—therefore, they were given three-fifths the representation of an American citizen. This was done to increase Southern representation in Congress, even though African-Americans couldn’t vote.
Moreover, due to pressure from pro-slavery Founders, the abolition of slavery could not be implemented by Congress until 1808—talk about kicking the can down the road.
13) Economic envy between the North and South (associated with slavery)
While the North was in fact industrialized, free labor in the South created Northern resentment. You see, the North actually had to pay their “agricultural employees.”
14) Social reformation (associated with slavery)
The Women’s Movement, with inspiration from the Bible, started to view the system of slavery as immoral.
15) Nat Turner’s Rebellion (associated with slavery)
A slave rebellion that resulted in the Southern States placing further restrictions on African Americans, such as prohibiting education for free African-Americans.
16) Gag Rule (associated with slavery)
Pro-slavery congressmen passed gag rules to table all anti-slavery petitions.
17) Amistad Slave Ship (associated with slavery)
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of slaves illegally brought to the US—slaves, at this time, were no longer allowed to be imported.
18) Annexation of Texas (associated with slavery)
19) Popular Sovereignty Slavery (associated with slavery)
Lewis Cass wanted territories to have the ability to decide whether or not to permit slavery—Congress had typically outlawed slavery in the territories.
20) California bans slavery (associated with slavery)
California’s State Constitution makes slavery illegal. It’s admittance into the Union was perceived by Southerners as changing the balance of power between free and slave states.
21) Compromise of 1850 (associated with slavery)
Large concessions were made on the slavery issue: California was admitted as a free state; the Utah and New Mexico territories could determine whether or not to implement slavery; slavery was abolished in Washington D.C.; and it simplified the process for slave masters to recover slaves.
22) Fugitive Slave Act (associated with slavery)
This act required escaped slaves to be returned to their masters. Northerners believed it was a “slave power conspiracy” used to increase Southern representation.
23) Kansas-Nebraska Act (associated with slavery)
This act created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and allowed inhabitants of these territories to choose whether or not slavery would be instituted.
24) Bleeding Kansas (associated with slavery)
The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act led to violent confrontations in Kansas between abolitionists and proponents of slavery—these confrontations greatly inflamed tensions between the North and South
25) Eli Whitney Cotton Gin (associated with slavery)
26) States vs. Federal rights (associated with slavery)
I guess, in some warped, abstract way, you could look at the Civil War as being a states’ rights issue. However, the Southern States were appealing to the argument of states’ rights in order to perpetuate the existence of an immoral economic system. The inclusion of the states’ rights argument is nothing more than a ploy—utilized by Stupidparty disciples—to cloak the primary cause of the Civil War, slavery.
Ok, now onto the causes supposedly “not associated with slavery”:
27) Tariffs (not associated with slavery)
Sociologist James W. Loewen thoroughly refutes the tariff claim:
“[The Tariff Thesis is] flatly wrong. High tariffs had prompted the Nullification Crisis in 1831-33, when, after South Carolina demanded the right to nullify federal laws or secede in protest, President Andrew Jackson threatened force. No state joined the movement, and South Carolina backed down. Tariffs were not an issue in 1860, and Southern states said nothing about them. Why would they? Southerners had written the tariff of 1857, under which the nation was functioning. Its rates were lower than at any point since 1816.”
It can be seen that there was no incentive for Southern States to secede due to tariff issues, as the South successfully wrote the tariff of 1857—and, as mentioned earlier, Southern States didn’t include the tariff argument in their declarations of secession.
28) Nullification Crisis (not associated with slavery)
South Carolina, in response to the economically disadvantaging Tariff of 1832, threatened nullification, which is a state’s refusal to accept federal law. The confrontation was eventually quelled with the passage of the Tariff of 1833 as it agreed to remove the Tariff of 1832 within 10 years.
29) Industrial Revolution (not associated with slavery)
The discovery of steam power, the advancement of machines, and improvements in logistics and transportation revolutionized the global economy—these advancements, for the most part, benefited the manufacturing sector. Slavery wasn’t the driving force behind industrial development.
30) Manifest Destiny (not associated with slavery)
Western Expansion was justified with the philosophy of Manifest Destiny. In essence, God, through divine command, sanctioned Western Expansion—the move West, according to its adherents, would create a “sea to shining sea” empire, and thus, fulfill God’s demands.
31) Mexican American War (not associated with slavery)
Inspired by Manifest Density, President James Polk supported a conflict with Mexico in order to obtain new territory. After Mexico’s surrender, the United States received large chunks of what was previously Mexican territory.
Causes on the fence (referred to as “likely associated with slavery”):
32) Election of Democrats & Whigs (likely associated with slavery)
While the election of these two political parties didn’t solely revolve around the slavery issue. Southern Democrats campaigned for slavery, while the conscience Whigs campaigned against it. The subject matter of candidates for office presumably related to the issue of slavery.
33) Lincoln-Douglas Debate (likely associated with slavery)
The debates between the two candidates involved political topics apart from slavery, so they weren’t only about slavery. But, the slavery issue did come up in all seven debates between the two candidates.
My, oh, my, it feels so good to refute Stupidparty arguments regarding the primary causes of the Civil War being “tariffs” and “space aliens.” Just for fun, I made a visual representation of the three categories (by percentage):
(*The “not associated with slavery” section would be even smaller if I decided to remove tariffs from the category—but I’m simply being nice.)
Filmmaker, Ken Burns, who produced the PBS television series The Civil War—a man with extensive knowledge on the causes behind the Civil War—said the following about bogus arguments related to the Civil War: “If you read South Carolina’s Articles of Secession in November after Lincoln’s election of 1860, they don’t mention states’ rights, they don’t mention nullification, they mention slavery over and over again.” Touché Ken, touché.
I must admit, it’s quite a chore to tell conservative revisionist that they can’t abide by their own set of “facts”—facts that were likely derived from Fox News or Breitbart. Who knows, conservatives, especially from the South, may concoct these historical myths in order to cope with the loss of the Civil War; or, maybe, it’s a way for conservatives to conveniently bypass the existence of institutional and structural racism in the United States. Whatever the reason, denying the facts is the definition of insanity. Disappointingly, when conservatives are confronted with facts that dismantle their fallacious arguments, they resort to—especially on social media—mindless, automatistic responses, such as typing in all caps and slinging homosexual slurs.
Neo-Confederate and Stupidparty denialism is a truly disturbing trend: advocates for the “Confederate Flag not being a racist symbol” nonsense truly highlights their abnormally elevated level of delusion. Incidentally, while I understand that symbols can evolve over time, or may become altered in a Foucauldian fashion (changing the meaning of symbol can help people heal, e.g., a persecuted group adopting a racial epithet to positively transform its definition)—contemporary defenders of the Confederate Flag aren’t ailing from historical trauma. My question is, why do Southerners, white Southerners to be more specific, believe that they’re victims? Did they forget about the actions of their immoral ancestors? The negative externalities of slavery are still being felt by African-Americans.
It must be said that the Neo-Confederate and Stupidparty attempt to both distort American history and alter the meaning of a racist symbol is a slap in the face to the African-American community, whose ancestors were brutally enslaved in order to uphold an immoral economic system. Maybe, just maybe, race relations will improve once these denialists begin accepting historical realities—telling the truth would be a good start.