A Comprehensive Review of
It Wasn't About Slavery, Exposing the Great Lie of the Civil War by Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr.
Part Six of Ten
Agitation and Compromise
The Chasm Grows
by Gene Kizer, Jr.
At the end of this article, beneath the notes I have cited, is "Actual Citation from Book," Mitcham's endnotes for Chapters VII and VIII.
MITCHAM OPENS CHAPTER VII, Agitation and Compromise, with "William Lloyd Garrison was the son of an alcoholic sailor who abandoned his family. He grew into a staunch Baptist and a vitriolic, harsh, hateful man---an odd combination for a Christian."
Garrison denounced the Constitution as "A covenant with death and an agreement with Hell." The fanatical Garrison to his credit wanted the North to secede from the United States so he did not have to be associated with slavery. Georgia's Robert Toombs said Garrison, while an extremist, was a man of conviction who believed what he preached unlike so many for whom anti-slavery was a political position, not a moral one.
Most abolitionists were not pro-black but were anti-black. They were anti-slavery because they did not want blacks anywhere near them, especially in the West.
Garrison, with Arthur Tappen, organized the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Garrison had published The Liberator since 1831.
His heart might have been in the right place --- to him, at any rate --- but his radical tactics did not hasten the end of slavery. They entrenched it. Mitcham writes:
The abolitionists' extreme rhetoric had a polarizing effect, in both North and South, which developed with remarkable speed. Virginia---which narrowly defeated a law abolishing slavery within the state only three years before---enacted a law in 1836 making it a crime to advocate abolition. The Georgia legislature offered a $5,000 reward for anyone who would kidnap Garrison and bring him south to stand trial.1
Mitcham points out that earlier generations of Southerners were like Thomas Jefferson who "denounced slavery in 1776" and thereafter but like so many others was stuck in the system that even Lincoln acknowledged would never be started up today (during Lincoln's lifetime). Lincoln also said if he had been born into a slave society, he would not know how to end it either.
Before virtue-signaling radical abolitionists, who never once had a realistic plan to end slavery, Southerners themselves wanted to end it. George Washington said "'It is among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery may be abolished by law.'"
James Madison, Father of the Constitution, was a slaveholder but admitted it was wrong.
The abolitionist demand for immediate, uncompensated emancipation was absurd. It would destroy the economies of the South and North because the Northern economy was based on manufacturing for the South and shipping Southern cotton.
It would also create a dangerous social problem because how would former slaves live? Already it was against the law in several Northern and Western states for free blacks to live there or even visit. To survive they had to steal or commit other crimes.
Slavery could have ended with a plan that dealt with all those problems but there was no will for that, especially in the racist North where freed slaves would go and be job competition. The demand for such a thing was ridiculous and I suspect that many virtue-signaling abolitionists knew it was ridiculous but just didn't care.
Rev. Nehemiah Adams of Massachusetts acknowledged the danger of "the propaganda of abolitionist societies." They encouraged slave insurrections which were murderous bloody affairs such as happened in Haiti. Adams writes "'husbands and fathers at the South considered that whatever might be true of slavery as a system, self-defence, the protection of their households against a servile insurrection, was their first duty. Who can wonder that they broke into the post-office, and seized and burned abolition papers; indeed, no excesses are surprising, in view of the perils to which they saw themselves exposed.'"
Southerners attacked Northerners for "'wage slavery'" and Mitcham writes that "In 1850, near the end of his life, Daniel Webster lamented that the debates leading up to the Compromise of 1850 would have led to the South gradually eliminating slavery had it not been for the frenzy stirred up by the abolitionists."2
The virtue-signalers, then and today, might feel good about themselves but their hands are usually dripping with blood.
Mitcham covers in detail every election, politician, political party, tariff, issue, date, percentage, and their significance in the entire antebellum period and he does it with a clarity and smoothness that makes it a pleasure to read.
The balance of power between North and South was huge because Northern states wanted high protective tariffs and large expenditures for public works in their states, while Southern states wanted low tariffs and free trade, the opposite of what the North wanted.
A major factor in the Whigs' defeat was the Tariff of 1842, which they managed to push through Congress and persuaded a reluctant President Tyler to sign. Called the Black Tariff, it raised the rates from 20 percent to nearly 40 percent. The tariff hamstrung the economy so severely that total tariff revenues declined. As a result, the Whigs lost both branches of Congress in 1844.3
The U.S. soon annexed Texas then war broke out with Mexico (1846-48) "in which the United States Army pushed to the Pacific and captured California and the modern Southwest."
Rep. David Wilmot of Pennsylvania on August 8, 1846 introduced his famous "Wilmot Proviso" prohibiting slavery in the "territory annexed from Mexico." Like so many anti-slavery virtue-signalers who were definitely not pro-black, Wilmot admitted his racist motivation was to keep blacks out of the West.
The entire issue of slavery in the West was political posturing. Slavery was not going to work in the West ever. Huge territories at one time or another were open for slavery yet there were never over a handful of slaves anywhere.
Senator James G. Blaine of Maine recalled: 'The whole controversy over the Territories, as remarked by a witty representative from the South, related to an imaginary negro in an impossible place.'4
Mitcham believes Southerners should not have fought the battle over slavery in the West since slavery could not work there.
However, it was a huge point of honor because Southerners, as Mitcham points out, had largely conquered the western territory. More Southern blood and treasure than Northern was used in the Mexican War so to then be told they could not take slaves there, even if a Southerner didn't own any slaves, was too much of an insult.5
The election of 1848 "was close and heated." The racist Wilmot had more to say. Mitcham writes:
The Southern slaveholders were called the 'Lords of the Lash,' while their opponents (northern textile manufacturers) were dubbed the 'Lords of the Loom.' Many of the Free Soil Democrats wanted to keep the west open for free white laborers. Congressman Wilmot told one rally: 'The negro race already occupy enough of this fair continent. Let us keep what remains for ourselves . . . for free white labor.'6
There's gold in them there hills!
In 1848, gold was discovered in California and its population increased dramatically. That led to California wanting to be admitted as a state, which meant the South would be forever outvoted in the U.S. Senate.
On March 4, 1850, in his last speech when he was so ill that James Mason of Virginia had to read it, John C. Calhoun "warned that an overbearing North was dissolving the ties that held the states together. The United States, he declared, could not hold together by cries of 'Union, Union, glorious Union,' any more than a physician could save a seriously ill patient by crying 'Health, health, glorious health.'"7
Mitcham paraphrases Calhoun who stated that "compromise with Yankees was useless. The North would use it as a stepping-stone to greater concessions later."
The Northern majority had already begun to construe the Constitution to increase federal power and diminish states' rights, to minimize Southern influence at the national level. To avert disunion, the North had to stop its attacks and agree to a constitutional amendment to protect the Southern minority. It if would not or could not, the South should leave in peace.8
Mitcham writes that Calhoun would have gone down as one of our greatest political thinkers behind only Jefferson but for his "full-throated embrace of slavery."
Even so, John F. Kennedy ranked him among the top five senators ever. Had the South listened to Calhoun, the Civil War would have been fought a decade earlier, when the South was stronger. During the next ten years, due to immigration and the development of the West, the North grew stronger while Southern strength lagged. The South had a much better chance of winning in 1850 than it did in 1861, and even then, it was a near-run thing.9
Northerners knew they had the majority and were anxious to force their will on the rest of the country. Mitcham writes:
Webster made his final speech three days after Calhoun. He endorsed Clay's compromise. The anti-slavery Whigs, led by Senator William H. Seward of New York, were disappointed. Seward, meanwhile, became metaphysical. He spoke of obeying a 'higher law' than the Constitution---the kind of argument that could justify anything.10
Seward's "higher law" comment was warned about many times in the secession debate in the South in the year leading up to Southern states seceding. It is a perfect example of why Southerners did not trust Northerners to obey the Constitution, so how can you be in a country with them?
Sounds like woke liberals today who despise our history and the Constitution. Many are from the same blue state area that Seward was in the 1860s.
Seward also had another inflammatory comment that Southerners heard loud and clear in 1858 when he said an "irrepressible conflict" was coming between North and South.
In June 1851 Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was "world class propaganda" in the form of fiction, came out. Tom's "cruel master, Simon Legree, who is a Northerner by birth, tried to break him of his religious faith. When he fails, Legree beats Tom to death out of frustration."11
Soon after, in 1856, pompous Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts made an insulting speech about slavery and Sen. Andrew Butler of South Carolina. Butler was related to Rep. Preston Brooks, also of South Carolina.
Brooks, unable to challenge Sumner to a duel because that was something you did with gentlemen, and Sumner was considered a dog, entered the Senate chambers and beat Sumner unconscious with a gutta percha cane while Brooks' friend, Rep. Laurence M. Keitt of South Carolina, kept Sumner's friends at bay.
Brooks was the perfect example of the hostilities of North and South. He was hated in the North but adored in the South and his cane, which had shattered into pieces in the attack on Sumner, became valuable as each piece was begged for as a sacred relic.
Brooks was sent a replacement cane on which were the words: Hit Him Again.
I was once commander of the Preston Brooks Camp, SCV, out of Columbia, South Carolina and our excellent newsletter, which I edited and published, was entitled, of course, "Hit Him Again!"
The Chasm Grows
Mitcham includes so many fascinating stories in this chapter it is a delight to read, though some are quite sad.
Franklin Pierce won the election of 1852. Mitcham writes:
History often turns on a dime. One such turn occurred on January 6, 1853. The President-elect and his wife were traveling from Boston when their train derailed. It rolled down an embankment near Andover, Massachusetts. Pierce and his wife survived, but their only living child, Benjamin or "Benny," was crushed to death and nearly decapitated. Pierce could not prevent his wife from seeing the body. Afterward, both Pierces suffered from depression, Jane greatly. She wondered if Benny's death was God's punishment for her husband's seeking high office. A cloud came over their marriage and Pierce's incoming administration. His son's death and Jane's constant depression continued to trouble Franklin and materially contributed to the failure of his administration. Pierce was already a heavy drinker; after, he drank even more. It would eventually kill him. Franklin Pierce die of cirrhosis of the liver in 1869. His wife died of depression six years before him.12
The fight over the route of the transcontinental railroad began with Jefferson Davis, Pierce's secretary of war, "ordering two routes surveyed, one north and one south." The Southern route had land and right-of-ways settled but the Northern faced all kind of problems including unorganized territory, Indians and mountains.
Stephen A. Douglas "pressured President Pierce into supporting" the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act to organize them as territories with "popular sovereignty" in place with respect to slavery. This repealed the Missouri Compromise, which forbid slavery north of parallel 36o 30' (except for Missouri).
Douglas did this because he needed Southern support for his bill to use the northern route for the transcontinental railroad despite the enormous problems when compared to the Southern route.
In a statement that proves that most anti-slavery in the North was political and not moral or pro-black, Mitcham writes:
Horace Greeley, an abolitionist leader and the editor of the New York Tribune, later commented that the [Kansas-Nebraska] act created more abolitionists in two months than William Lloyd Garrison produced in twenty years." (Bold emphasis added.)
It produced more abolitionists because so much money and political power was involved with having a northern route for the transcontinental railroad going through Chicago that suddenly Northerners, who had not given a damn about slavery before, became abolitionists to get that money and power.
That kind of greed for money was the cause of the War Between the States.
When Southerners left the Union seeking self-government as promised in the Declaration of Independence with "Governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...", it meant the South would rise to dominance in North America with control of King Cotton and European trade and military alliances, and that is something Lincoln and the North could not tolerate. It had nothing to do with Northern morality or desire to end slavery but rather with Northern immorality, hypocrisy, and lust for other people's money.
As Lincoln said, it's about Union, the source of Northern wealth and power, and if he could free no slaves, or one slave, or all of them to preserve the Union, he was going to do it.
In 1854, "The American or 'Know Nothing' Party, which was formed out of anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant elements, went from zero to fifty-one seats." They allied with "the anti-slavery Opposition Party and a few smaller parties, which held a handful of seats."
The Whig Party collapsed and:
Most of the former Northern Whigs joined the Republicans, which became the first genuinely regional party in the United States. It was a big government, big business party from the beginning. It advanced the ideas of Hamilton, who believed these policies would bring national growth through a powerful centralized government and government intervention through government regulation, subsidies, and high tariff policies, rather than through free-market solutions.13
George Washington warned that sectional parties would destroy the country but abolitionist Republican Wendell Phillips bragged that the Republican Party was sectional: the party of the North pledged against the South.
Of course Washington was right. This was the "tyranny of the majority" that the Founding Fathers warned about. Alexis de Tocqueville warned about it too. Northerners were determined to rule with their majority and pass legislation that robbed the rest of the country and sent money from the South into the North.
The "political winds were shifting, the political chameleons naturally changed with them."
Abraham Lincoln, for example, became less moderate. As an attorney, he had represented a slave owner and argued to have his client's slaves, who had fled to Illinois, returned to him. (He lost the case.). He had been silent on the issue of slavery, he had supported the Black Codes, and he was a big believer in African colonization. In 1854, he was an extraordinarily successful and wealthy corporate attorney, but his political career was at a low point. He demonized the South and said they were likely to expand slavery to the West. This claim was absurd and Lincoln had to know it (there were only eighty-fives slaves in Kansas at its peak), but being the political opportunist that he was, he joined the chorus anyway.14
The national atmosphere was tense and emotional. The "Border War" began. "In May 1856, 700 pro-Southern men descended on Lawrence, Kansas, and pillaged the place. Shortly thereafter, fanatical abolitionist John Brown retaliated by torturing and murdering five Southerners. They were not slave holders and had not taken part in the Lawrence Raid."15
That summer began barn and house burnings, "ambushes, and bushwhacking. At least 200 people were killed." This would continue until 1865.16
In the election of 1856, "The Republican platform called for high tariffs and for slavery to be excluded from the territories. This would keep them from the "troublesome presence of free Negroes," as Lincoln said.17
Mitcham writes that there were no moral considerations at all among Northerners: "The motives were purely to protect the economic and political interests of the North and West at the expense of the South."18 Their strategy was "to spread alarm in the North by proclaiming that 'slave Power' or the 'slaveocracy' intended to gain control of the government."
First, it would (somehow) conquer the territories; then it would spread slavery to the North. It would make every state a slave state. This was absurd, of course, but hysteria can work.19
Dred Scott, a slave who had been taken by his master into Illinois and the Wisconsin territory, sued for his freedom "but on March 6, 1857, [Chief Justice Roger] Taney and his colleagues ruled in favor of the slave owner. Speaking for the majority, Judge Taney declared that because he was black, Scott was not a person under the U.S. Constitution; he was the property of his owner, and property could not be taken from anyone without due process of law."20
Taney also ruled that "the Missouri Compromise's prohibition on slavery was unconstitutional. Congress had no right to exclude slavery from any of the territories".21
Again, Abraham Lincoln remarked "that the South would not embrace slavery today (i.e., 1858) if it were not already economically entrenched there."22
The 1858 campaign in Illinois for the Senate included the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates, seven of them:
Douglas attacked Lincoln's racist credentials. He accused Lincoln of thinking the black was his equal and hence his brother. Douglas himself pointedly remarked that the African American was not his equal and certainly not his brother.
Lincoln responded that he was not and never had been in favor of the equality of the races. He believed that so long as the two races lived together, there must be one superior race and one inferior race. 'I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race,' he declared.23
Douglas won. He was appointed Illinois senator by the legislature despite Lincoln winning the popular vote. Senators were not elected directly by voters in those days. They were appointed by state legislatures until the Seventeenth Amendment changed all that in 1913.
But "As a result of the election, Lincoln rose to national prominence. Also, slavery became a major issue."24
A Comprehensive Review of
It Wasn't About Slavery, Exposing the Great Lie of the Civil War by Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr.
Part Seven of Ten
(Click Here to go to previous week: Part Five: Chapter VI, Cultural Differences)
(Scroll down for:
It Wasn't About Slavery, Actual Citation from Book)
1 Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., It Wasn't About Slavery, Exposing the Great Lie of the Civil War (Washington, DC: Regnery History, 2020), 62.
2 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 63-64.
3 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 66.
4 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 68.
5 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 67.
6 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 69.
7 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 70.
8 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 70-71.
9 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 71.
11 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 73.
12 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 79.
13 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 82.
14 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 83.
15 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 84.
17 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 86.
20 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 87-88.
21 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 88.
22 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 89.
24 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 90.
This should be required reading for every Democrat in America. The parallel between the hypocrisy of then and now is astounding. Virtue signaling indeed. Great review, Gene! Keep ’em coming. On a personal note, I found out this week, to my doctor’s great surprise, that I do not have cancer. This opens up the possibilities of tackling a new writing project. I am considering “The Rape of the South” as I now may have time for the extensive research which will be involved. Long live the South!
So glad to hear you don’t have cancer!
Definitely write your book!