Academia's absolute proof that the War Between the States was fought over slavery is based primarily on the declarations of causes for the secession of four of the first seven Southern states to secede: South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas.
However, those four declarations prove nothing of the sort.
There were 13 Southern states represented in the Confederate government. That 13 included Missouri and Kentucky, which were divided states that did not actually secede. They remained Union slave states - two of six Union slave states - the entire war (WHAT! UNION SLAVE STATES! I thought the war was fought over slavery with the Union fighting to end slavery! Man, they should have started with their own country).
In fact, three of the six Union slave states - New Jersey, Kentucky and Delaware - had slavery several months after the war. It took the second 13th Amendment in December 1865 for slavery to end in those three Union slave states.
Remember, the first 13th Amendment was the Corwin Amendment that left black people in slavery forever, even beyond the reach of Congress, in places where slavery already existed. It was passed by the Northern Congress, ratified by several states and strongly supported by Abraham Lincoln before the war made it moot.
The Corwin Amendment was the true feeling of the North on the slavery issue though it is only one small piece of the irrefutable evidence that the North did not go to war to end slavery.
Back to the six Union slave states: The Emancipation Proclamation deliberately exempted them as well as slaves in already captured Confederate territory. That prompted Lincoln's secretary of state, William H. Seward, to state "We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free."
It also gave Charles Dickens a good laugh at Lincoln's phoneyness and hypocrisy, especially since all of Lincoln's life he favored sending blacks back to Africa or into a place they could survive. See Colonization after Emancipation, Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement by Phillip W. Magness and Sebastian N. Page (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2011).
All 13 states represented in the Confederate government produced a legal document such as an ordinance of secession that withdrew the state from the Union. Tennessee's was called a Declaration of Independence.
Most of the ordinances of secession were straight-forward documents referring to a state's ratification of the Constitution then withdrawing the state from it, as well as proclaiming its sovereignty, etc. Alabama and Arkansas did go a little beyond pure legalese in discussing some issues but nothing like a declaration of causes.
Only four of the 13 Confederate states issued declarations of causes. Nine did not.
Those four declarations are the basis for the entire argument against the South because politicized academia and the ignorant news media simply ignore substantial evidence they don't agree with.
They ignore the six Union slave states, the Corwin Amendment, the War Aims Resolution (war is being waged for Union, not to end slavery), Lincoln's very clear statements that the war is about preserving the Union, and a ton of conclusive evidence that slavery was not the cause of the North's invasion of the South.
The North was interested in its economic dominance and wealth, not ending slavery, and Northerners sure did not want a bunch of desperate freed slaves to come North and be job competition. That's why so many Northern and Western states had laws forbidding free blacks from living there or even visiting for long including Lincoln's Illinois.
Anti-slavery in the North in 1856 and 1860 was political, to rally votes so Northerners could control the federal government and continue their bounties, subsidies and monopolies for Northern businesses, and their high tariffs like the Morrill Tariff. Remember, they were the "Federals" in the war because they wanted to establish the supremacy of the federal government over the states, which they would then control with their larger population.
Northern anti-slavery should be labeled, more accurately, "anti-South" - political agitation against the South - not anti-slavery. It was not a moral movement for the benefit of the black man.
Even the slavery in the West issue was based, not on concern for blacks, but the opposite: Northern racism. They didn't want slavery in the West because they did not want blacks near them in the West.
It all started with the Wilmot Proviso. U.S. Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania on Augusut 8, 1846 introduced a proviso prohibiting slavery in the territory won from Mexico after the Mexican War. Wilmot admitted his racist motivation was to keep blacks out of the West. He said, among other things: "The negro race already occupy enough of this fair continent. Let us keep what remains for ourselves . . . for free white labor."1
Lincoln said the exact same thing in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, that the West was to be reserved for free white labor from all over the world. No blacks allowed.
The four declarations of causes are statements as to why states seceded, what their grievances were, and such. They are not declarations of war. Southerners expected to live in peace. After all, Yankees threatened to secede five times before Southerners finally did.
Nobody questioned the right of secession, not even Horace Greeley during the time that South Carolina was seceding in December, 1860. Greeley strongly supported the right of secession ("let the erring sisters go") until he realized it would affect his money then he wanted war like the rest of the North.
Wars are always fought over money and power, never because one country does not like the domestic institutions in another. Would you send your precious sons off to die to free servants in another country? Hell no.
Lincoln sent his hostile naval forces to Charleston and Pensacola to start the War Between the States in April, 1861 because a free trade South with European military alliances and 100% control of the most demanded commodity on the planet - cotton - would quickly rise to dominance in North America. The North would not be able to beat the South in a war in such a situation.
That's why Lincoln wanted to use his enormous advantages at that point in history, and fight.
He wanted to establish the North as the dominant cultural and economic region of our great country, and he did. It's been that way for over 150 years though many of the big cities of the North and West today are on a death spiral thanks to woke liberal policies that encourage violent crime and discriminate against the law-biding. Recent mass thefts in San Francisco, New York and other bastions of liberal wokeness by mobs of violent criminals have forced businesses to board up and leave rather than serve the public. That is a clear sign of a sick, decaying culture.
The four declarations of causes all mention several reasons for seceding. All mention the many constitutional violations of the North. The North was untrustworthy.
All mention Northern terrorism against the South such as John Brown who wanted to murder Southern men, women and children with a bloody slave insurrection like they had in Haiti. Brown was funded by the "Secret Committee of Six" out of Massachusetts. They gave him $679,000 in 2017 dollars. Seven of Brown's raiders who escaped Harper's Ferry were protected by Iowa and Ohio whose Republican governors would not extradite them to Virginia to stand trial as the Constitution required. Brown was celebrated and glorified in the North for wanting to murder Southerners.
Of course, this shocked the South and caused it to realize that Northerners were already at war with them, so they debated the issue and voted to secede.2
The most widely quote phrase in the secession debate in the South in the year prior to states seceding comes from the Declaration of Independence:
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
South Carolina's Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union, adopted December 24, 1860, is a fascinating constitutional and early American history lesson. It proves South Carolina's sovereignty and the sovereignty of all the states. The caps are in the original document. Here's part of it:
Under this Confederation the war of the Revolution was carried on, and on the 3rd of September, 1783, the contest ended, and a definite Treaty was signed by Great Britain, in which she acknowledged the independence of the Colonies in the following terms: "ARTICLE 1-- His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz: New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that he treats with them as such; and for himself, his heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof." / Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted. And concurrent with the establishment of these principles, was the fact, that each Colony became and was recognized by the mother Country a FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATE.
Georgia's declaration goes into great detail on the economic causes of secession. As Georgia's famous senator, Robert Toombs, said, the North was a suction pump sucking wealth out of the South and depositing it into the North constantly. The Georgia declaration states:
The material prosperity of the North was greatly dependent on the Federal Government; that of the South not at all.
That is a powerful statement as to why the Union was critical to Lincoln and the North, but was the opposite of the States' Rights philosophy of the Founding Fathers and the South.
Even Mississippi's declaration that begins with an assertion that it is identified with slavery as the basis of its economic well-being makes several critical points. It affirms the constitutional violations of the North but states about the North:
It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better. / 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. / It has broken every compact into which it has entered for our security. / It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system. / It knows no relenting or hesitation in its purposes; it stops not in its march of aggression, and leaves us no room to hope for cessation or for pause.
Texas's declaration of causes includes:
By the disloyalty of the Northern States and their citizens and the imbecility of the Federal Government, infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws, to war upon the lives and property of Southern citizens in that territory, and finally, by violence and mob law, to usurp the possession of the same as exclusively the property of the Northern States. / The Federal Government, while but partially under the control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies, has for years almost entirely failed to protect the lives and property of the people of Texas against the Indian savages on our border, and more recently against the murderous forays of banditti from the neighboring territory of Mexico; and when our State government has expended large amounts for such purpose, the Federal Government has refused reimbursement therefor, thus rendering our condition more insecure and harassing than it was during the existence of the Republic of Texas.
Read these declarations and especially know your own state's if you live in South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia or Texas. Northern constitutional violations are extremely important. If you can't trust the North to obey the Constitution, you can't trust them with anything.
Northern support for terrorists like John Brown was a huge issue. The North was already at war with the South. Would you allow yourself to be ruled by people who sent murderers, thieves and arsonists into your peaceful towns to kill your family and neighbors, destroy your property, poison wells, and encourage the unimaginable horror of slave insurrections with rape and murder from which there would be no survivors like in Haiti?
The economic theft also mentioned was huge. Southerners were paying 85% of the taxes yet 75% of the tax money was being spent in the North.3
Nobody in the North, ever a single time, suggested a workable plan for gradual, compensated emancipation such as the Northern states, themselves, and all other nations on earth except Haiti, used to end slavery.
The reason why is that Northerners were not about to spend their hard earned sweatshop money to free the slaves in the South who would then go North with crime and violence, and be job competition.
They would rather do as they did and just pass laws that forbid black people from settling or even visiting Northern and Western states for long.
The four declarations of causes indicate that slavery was one of the causes of secession for four states, but only for those four.
The other nine did not issue declarations of causes, and four of the Southern states, in which 52.4% of white Southerners lived, unquestionably seceded over nothing to do with slavery.
Those four states --- Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina --- rejected secession at first but after Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South, they were horrified by the prospect of violent federal coercion. They were utterly disgusted that the federal government would illegally and unconstitutionally invade sovereign states, kill their citizens and destroy their property to force them to obey a Northern sectional majority.
Another thing that proves the war was not about slavery: when Lincoln called for his immoral invasion, there were more slave states in the Union than in the Confederacy.
There were nine slave states in the Union, soon to be 10 with the admission of West Virginia as a slave state into the Union during the war, ironically, just weeks after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.
There were only seven slave states in the Confederacy.
The nine Union slave states on April 12, 1861 when the war started were Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina.
The seven Confederate states were South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
Nothing the North or dishonest academia or anybody else says matters anyway. The South had the right to secede and did so properly.
Among the conclusive evidence of the right of secession is the reserved right to secede demanded by New York, Rhode Island and Virginia before they acceded to the Constitution. All the other states accepted the reserved right of secession of New York, Rhode Island and Virginia, thus they had it too, since all states entered the Union as exact equals.
Southerners seceded democratically with conventions of the people to decide the one issue of secession just as the Founding Fathers had used conventions of the people to decide the one issue of accepting or rejecting the United States Constitution.
The Founding Fathers established the precedent of using conventions of the people to decide single, important issues. Southerners followed it to the letter.
Southerners wanted to be free to govern themselves just like the colonists had wanted when the British became tyrannical with their taxes that were minuscule compared to the 85% Southerners were paying in 1861, of which 75% of the tax money was being spent in the North.
Southerners expected to live in peace but, as stated, Lincoln and Northern business leaders and banks knew that a free-trade South with 100% control of King Cotton, and British trade and military alliances, would quickly be unbeatable in a war. The South would then rise to dominance in North America.
Lincoln started his war so he could throw up his naval blockade and chill relations between the South and Europe.
This is confirmed by Lincoln's own commander inside Fort Sumter, Major Robert Anderson, who was at ground zero on April 12, 1861, when the war started.
Of all the participants in the drama, Anderson, alone, was in the best position to judge who started the war.
When Anderson was informed that reinforcements would be sent after the South had been lied to over and over with the false promise that Fort Sumter would be evacuated, he wrote back to Secretary of War Cameron and Lincoln:
. . . a movement made now when the South has been erroneously informed that none such will be attempted, would produce most disastrous results throughout out country. . . . We shall strive to do our duty, though I frankly say that my heart is not in the war which I see is to be thus commenced. . . . (emphasis added)
Major Anderson sees that the war "is to be thus commenced" by Abraham Lincoln, president of the North, the first sectional president in American history whom over 60% of even Northerners voted against in 1860.
Lincoln, whose goal was to establish the Northeast as the dominant economic and cultural section of our country, succeeded, though over a million people had to die, which included 750,000 soldiers, with another million maimed.
1 Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men (Chicago: Open Court, 1996), 90.
2 Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., It Wasn't About Slavery, Exposing the Great Lie of the Civil War (Washington, DC: Regnery History, 2020), 98-101.
3 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 103.
This piece was published on Charleston Athenaeum on Feb. 9, 2022.
Gene Kizer, Jr. is an author and historian in Charleston, South Carolina, and founder of Charleston Athenaeum Press. He graduated magna cum laude from the College of Charleston in 2000 at middle age with History Departmental Honors, the Rebecca Motte American History Award, and the highest award for the History Department, the Outstanding Student Award. He is author of Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, The Irrefutable Argument.; The Elements of Academic Success, How to Graduate Magna Cum Laude from College (or how to just graduate, PERIOD!); and Charleston, SC Short Stories, Book One. He married his last ex- by sneaking into Fort Johnson and saying vows on the exact ground from where the first shot of the War Between the States was fired, at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861. He lives on James Island where he is also broker-in-charge of Charleston Saltwater Realty . Please contact him through Charleston Athenaeum Press.