The North Did Not Go to War to End Slavery
by Gene Kizer, Jr.
If they had, they would have started by passing a constitution amendment abolishing slavery. They did the opposite. They overwhelmingly passed the Corwin Amendment, which left black people in slavery forever, even beyond the reach of Congress. This alone proves, unequivocally, that the North did not go to war to end slavery or free the slaves.
(This post is Chapter Two of my book, Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, The Irrefutable Argument., available on this website)
The North does not get to redefine, in the middle of the war, its reason for going to war. What the North proclaimed in the beginning, stands, as its reason for going to war -- and it is unchangeable. War measures halfway through the war, such as the Emancipation Proclamation that freed no slaves (and prevented close to a million slaves from achieving their freedom), have nothing to do with why the North went to war in the first place.
A near-unanimous resolution entitled the War Aims Resolution established early-on what the North was fighting for. It was passed by the Northern Congress in July, 1861, three months after the bombardment of Fort Sumter:
. . . That this war is not waged upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor for the purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or institutions [slavery] of the States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution [which allowed and protected slavery], and to preserve the Union. . . .1
Throughout the antebellum years as the country achieved its Manifest Destiny marching westward, winning the Mexican War, growing in wealth and power, no credible Northern leader said they should march armies into the South to end slavery.2
Throughout the first two years of the war, almost nobody in the North said they were fighting to end slavery. To do so would risk racist Union soldiers deserting because they signed up to fight for the Union, not to free slaves whom they feared would move north and inundate their towns and cities and be job competition. Julia Dent Grant, wife of Ulysses S. Grant, might have freed her four slaves if she had thought it was an abolition war and not a war for the Union.3
Most Northerners, excluding a few truly good-hearted abolitionists, accepted slavery. As stated earlier, historians Lee Benson and Gavin Wright maintain that the percentage of abolitionists in the North was "probably no more than 2 per cent, almost certainly no more than 5 per cent, of the Northern electorate,"4 and, ironically, many of them didn't like slavery because they didn't like blacks and did not want to associate with them. Prominent abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy had been murdered by an outraged Northern mob in Lincoln's own Illinois in 1837. The mob was trying to destroy Lovejoy's abolitionist materials and his press.
By 1861, Northerners had been supporting slavery for 241 years and would continue supporting it throughout the War Between the States since five slave states, as noted earlier, fought for the North. Again, those states are Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia, which came into the Union during the war as a slave state.5
If the North was fighting to end slavery, it would never permit slave states to fight for the Union -- or, it would have ended slavery in the Union slave states immediately.
It did the opposite and made sure by constitutional amendment and proclamation that slavery in the Union was protected, just as it was, and had always been, by the Constitution.
That's how the North really felt about slavery and freeing the slaves.
Lincoln himself took it a step further. He supported the first Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- the Corwin Amendment -- which would have left black people in slavery forever, even beyond the reach of Congress. It passed March 2, 1861, two days before Lincoln's first inaugural. It reads:
No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof [slavery], including that of persons held to labor [slaves] or service by the laws of said State.6
About the Corwin Amendment, Lincoln said, in his first inaugural on March 4, 1861:
I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution — which amendment, however, I have not seen — has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.
(Bold emphasis added.)
Before Lincoln took office, President James Buchanan actually signed the Corwin Amendment after it had been approved by Congress and was ready to be sent to the states for ratification. Buchanan's act was symbolic only.
It is important to note that the Corwin Amendment had required a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and it had passed with mostly Northern votes because seven Southern states were out of the Union by then and did not vote. Indeed, the bill's sponsor, Representative Thomas Corwin, was from Ohio.
Three Northern states ratified the Corwin Amendment -- Ohio, Maryland and Illinois -- before the war made it moot.
After the Corwin Amendment's passage, Lincoln sent a letter with a copy of the Corwin Amendment to each state's governor pointing out that Buchanan had signed it. Lincoln was making sure everyone knew of his strong support of slavery forever, even beyond the reach of Congress.
Before even mentioning the Corwin Amendment in his first inaugural, Lincoln made it clear that he strongly supported slavery and had "no inclination" to end it:
Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And, more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:
Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend, and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.
I now reiterate these sentiments; and, in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming administration.
(Bold emphasis added.)
On August 22, 1862, sixteen months into the war, Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, in response to a letter Greeley had sent him, and reiterated:
. . . My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that--What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help the Union. 7 (Bold emphasis, which is italics in the original text, is Lincoln's.)
Exactly one month -- September 22, 1862 -- after writing his letter to Horace Greeley, Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and the very first paragraph states clearly that the war is being fought to restore the Union and not to free the slaves:
I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy thereof, do hereby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States, and each of the States, and the people thereof, in which States that relation is, or may be, suspended or disturbed.
(Bold emphasis added.)
Clearly, the North did not instigate a war to end slavery.
The focus on slavery as the primary cause of the War Between the States -- even indirectly -- is a fraud of biblical proportions and it prevents real understanding of American history.
Pulitzer Prize winning historian and Lincoln scholar, David H. Donald, back in the 1960s, was concerned about the overemphasis of slavery as the cause of the war. He said the Civil Rights Movement seems to have been the reason for stressing slavery as the cause of the war.
I have already proven that the North did not go to war to end slavery. There is much more evidence but the following is a good summary of the things in the beginning that show, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the North did not go to war to free the slaves or because of slavery:
1) The North's War Aims Resolution, which states clearly that they are fighting to preserve the Union and not "for the purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or institutions [slavery] of the States."
2) Lincoln's constant promises in high profile forums such as his first inaugural address, to protect slavery where it existed.
3) The United States Congress's overwhelming passage of the Corwin Amendment, which would have left black people in slavery forever, even beyond the reach of Congress. If the North was fighting to end slavery, it would have passed a constitutional amendment ending slavery, and not one that guaranteed that black people would be in slavery forever, even beyond the reach of Congress. Three Northern states ratified the Corwin Amendment including Lincoln's own Illinois before the war made it moot. This alone proves, unequivocally, that the North did not go to war to free the slaves or to end slavery. (Bold emphasis added.)
4) Lincoln's strong support for the Corwin Amendment as stated in his first inaugural and in personal letters to the governors.
5) The North's historical support for slavery and slave-trading.
6) The fact that, when Lincoln sent his hostile military mission to Charleston to start the war, just prior to the bombardment of Fort Sumter, there were more slave states in the Union than in the Confederacy.8
7) Northern leaders -- no credible Northern leader throughout the antebellum period said they ought to march armies into the South to free the slaves. Indeed, abolitionists were hated in the North. Elijah Lovejoy was murdered in Lincoln's Illinois.
8) Northerner leaders -- almost none of whom for the first two years of the war said that they were fighting to free the slaves. Ulysses S. Grant's wife, Julia, owned four slaves. It would be hard for Grant to say he had gone to war to end slavery when his own house was a slaveholding household.
9) The five slave states that fought for the North throughout the war: Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
10) The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation issued September 22, 1862, that states clearly in the very first paragraph that "hereafter, as theretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation" between the U.S. and seceded states i.e., the Union. There is no mention of slavery. (Bold emphasis added.)
11) The Emancipation Proclamation that freed no slaves (or few) and deliberately left at least 832,259, who were under Northern control, in slavery. Most of those black people officially stayed slaves until well after the end of the war. They could have been freed easily if the North had wanted to free them.9
The Emancipation Proclamation states, literally, that it is a war measure, and it was not issued early on.
It was not issued before Lincoln took office, or after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, or during Lincoln's first inaugural. It was issued two years into the war -- and it freed no slaves (or few).
The conditions around the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and its timetable establish the fact that the North most certainly did not go to war on April 12, 1861 to end slavery or free the slaves.
The North's support for slavery goes back to the beginning of the country when Northern (and British) slave traders brought most of the slaves here and made huge fortunes in the process. Dr. Edgar J. McManus in his excellent book, Black Bondage in the North, writes that "Boston merchants entered the African trade as early as 1644, and by 1676 they were bringing back cargoes from as far away as East Africa and Madagascar."10 McManus writes:
[The slave trade] quickly became one of the cornerstones of New England's commercial prosperity . . . which yielded enormous commercial profits.11
Virtually the entire infrastructure of the Old North was built on profits from the slave trade and slave traders such as Boston's Peter Faneuil of Faneuil Hall, the ironically named "Cradle of Liberty," which might have been a cradle for him but sure wasn't for the tens of thousands of black Africans he was responsible for snatching from their families and forcing into the horrors of the Middle Passage.
McManus explains the importance of the slave trade to the New England economy:
[The slave trade] stimulated the growth of other industries. Shipbuilding, the distilleries, the molasses trade, agricultural exports to the West Indies, and the large numbers of artisans, sailors, and farmers were all dependent upon the traffic in Negroes. It became the hub of New England's economy.12
See also the excellent 2005 book Complicity, How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank of The Hartford Courant.13
Let's go beyond the North's guilt for enthusiastic, widespread slave trading and look at the whole picture.
The North could not have gotten cargoes of slaves without tremendous help from blacks themselves. Black African tribal chieftains had captives from tribal warfare rounded up and waiting in places like Bunce Island off modern Sierra Leone to be picked up by slave traders from all over the world. The constant unrest in Africa today with genocides, kidnappings, never-ending warfare, people hacked to death, makes it easy to understand. Black tribal chieftains were worse then because there was no media attention on them. They made slavery easy. White people did not even have to get off the ship and usually didn't. Slavery could never have happened without those blacks in Africa who were all too willing to sell other blacks into slavery for profit.14
Slavery has always existed including today. Indians enslaved other Indians. The Romans would conquer a place and kill all the men and take all the women and children into slavery. Most cultures, worldwide, had slavery at one time or another. American slavery is not the first. Only 5% of slaves in the exodus from Africa, called the African Diaspora, ended up in the United States. Many ended up in Brazil and other places in South America and the Caribbean.
Slavery is a blight on humanity but a fact of human history and we should understand the truth of it and not the politically correct lie that blames only the South. All Americans, but especially African-Americans, deserve to know the entire truth about slavery and not some white-washed version. "Truth" is why Lerone Bennett wrote Forced into Glory, to reveal that racist Abraham Lincoln deliberately did not free any slaves (or freed very few) with the Emancipation Proclamation, and, most of Lincoln's life (Lerone Bennett says all of his life) supported sending African-Americans back to Africa or into a climate suitable to them. The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation confirms this long-held belief of Lincoln's that "the effort to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent, or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the Governments existing there, will be continued."
There would have been no American slavery without black tribal chieftains in Africa, and British and Yankee slave traders.
The reason the South gets all the blame is because of a half-century of political correctness15 in which only one side of the story has been told16 because, if you tell the Southern side, even in a scholarly manner, you open yourself up to charges of being a racist and member of the KKK who wishes we still had slavery.
Esteemed historian, Eugene D. Genovese, writes:
To speak positively about any part of this Southern tradition is to invite charges of being a racist and an apologist for slavery and segregation. We are witnessing a cultural and political atrocity an increasingly successful campaign by the media and an academic elite to strip young white Southerners, and arguably black Southerners as well, of their heritage, and therefore, their identity. They are being taught to forget their forebears or to remember them with shame.17 (Bold emphasis added.)
NAACP resolutions passed in 1987 and 1991 spewing hatred on the Confederate battle flag also intimidate scholars who would rather not weigh in or who will take the anti-South side without a fair examination of the issues. Professors know that they stand almost no chance of getting tenure if they say anything good about the South in the War Between the States. They know that we live in a shallow and superficial time and just an accusatory whiff in the air that someone is a racist, whether they are or not, will end a college history career or prevent one from getting started.18
But, remember the old proverb: "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him"19
The War Between the States is the central event in American history. It should be examined thoroughly just as Lerone Bennett has examined Abraham Lincoln and given us a fresh perspective on old Honest Abe the racist who used the "n" word more than the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, the same Abe Lincoln who wanted to ship black people back to Africa and who deliberately freed no slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation when he could have freed close to a million under Union control. There is a lot to know and think about in order to understand what really happened.
1 The War Aims Resolution is also known by the names of its sponsors, Representative John J. Crittenden of Kentucky and Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee: the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution, or just the Crittenden Resolution. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives July 22, 1861, and the Senate July 25, 1861. There were only two dissenting votes in the House and five in the Senate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crittenden-Johnson_Resolution, accessed March 29, 2014.
2 Indeed, there is much evidence that illegal slave trading was still being conducted by many Northern ship captains right up to the beginning of the war, though slave trading had officially been outlawed since 1808.
3 There is a well-known story about Ulysses S. Grant wherein Grant states that he is fighting to preserve the Union and if anybody accuses him of fighting to free the slaves, he will promptly go join the Confederacy and fight on their side. There may be some truth to it, and maybe not. Grant did own one slave whom he freed in 1859, but his wife, Julia, owned four throughout much of the war, therefore Grant's household was a slaveholding household. Grant's supposed quotation was published in 1868 in the Democratic Speaker's Hand-Book, which was a Democratic Party campaign document in the 1868 campaign when Grant was running for president as a Republican. However, in 1861, Grant was a Democrat, and, as stated, living in a slaveholding household. The Democratic Speaker's Hand-Book on page 33 states that Grant was the Colonel of the Twenty-first Illinois, stationed near Mexico in 1861, and that Grant's quotation was provided by the editor of the Randolph Citizen, a Missouri newspaper. It starts: "In a public conversation in Ringo's banking-house, a sterling Union man put this question to him [Grant]: 'What do you honestly think was the real object of this war on the part of the Federal Government?'"
'Sir, said Grant, 'I have no doubt in the world that the sole object is the restoration of the Union. I will say further, though, that I am a Democrat--every man in my regiment is a Democrat--and whenever I shall be convinced that this war has for its object anything else than what I have mentioned, or that the Government designed using its soldiers to execute the purposes of the abolitionists, I pledge you my honor as a man and a soldier that I will carry my sword to the other side, and cast my lot with that people.'
Source: Democratic Speaker's Hand-Book: Containing every thing necessary for the defense of the national democracy in the coming presidential campaign, and for the assault of the radical enemies of the country and its constitution, compiled by Matthew Carey, Jr. Cincinnati: Miami Printing and Publishing Company, 1868.
4 Benson, "Explanations of American Civil War Causation" in Wright, The Political Economy of the Cotton South, 136. David M. Potter also points out that Northern antislavery had a strong anti-black bias and was not designed to help black people but to get rid of them. See David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861, completed and edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1976), 35-36.
5 The District of Columbia, which included the Northern capital, Washington, permitted slavery for the first year of the war. Slavery was abolished in DC with compensation to slaveowners in 1862, but it continued in the five Union slave states throughout the war and a while afterward.
6 Corwin Amendment, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corwin_Amendment. Accessed March 26, 2014.
7Letter, A. Lincoln to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862, in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953) V:388.
8 The eight slave states in the Union on April 12, 1861 when Fort Sumter was bombarded are Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri. West Virginia was admitted to the Union as a slave state during the war. The seven states first to secede and form the Confederate States of America are South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
9 The argument that Lincoln had to word the Emancipation Proclamation to protect slavery in the Union slaves states because he did not have the constitutional authority to end slavery in the those states has some merit and makes my point -- that Northerners did not go to war to end slavery. If they had, they would have started by passing a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. As stated above, they did the opposite and overwhelmingly passed the Corwin Amendment, which would have left black people in slavery forever, even beyond the reach of Congress. It was ratified by three Northern states before the war made it moot. ALSO, if one buys the argument that Lincoln didn't have the constitutional authority to end slavery in the Union slaves states, then how did he get the authority to end slavery in the Southern slave states, which, according to Lincoln, were still part of the Union? As Lincoln stated, the Emancipation Proclamation was a war measure and its authority came from Lincoln's power as commander-in-chief. It was not designed to help black people but designed to help Union armies win the war by encouraging slaves in the South to rise up and kill women and children in the South, which would cause men in the Confederate Army to want to go home to protect their families. Of course, this didn't happen because the slaves were loyal to the South for the most part throughout the war. The EP would, however, cause slaves, in the excitement of impending battle, to run off as the Union Army invaded further into the South. This would be advantageous to the North. Two other HUGE reasons the EP was issued: To get the North favorable press in Europe, and to help stymie official recognition of the Confederacy, which would almost certainly bring military assistance. But, getting back to the constitutional argument, the North allowed slave states to be part of the Union, and the South allowed free states to be part of the Confederacy. The South anticipated that several free states with economic ties to the South would join the CSA and this bothered Lincoln greatly. In keeping with its States' Rights philosophy, slavery in the CSA was up to an individual state.
(Bold emphasis added.)
10 Edgar J. McManus, Black Bondage in the North (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1973), 9-10.
13 Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank, Complicity, How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery (New York: Ballantine Books, 2005).
14 See James Walvin, Slavery and the Slave Trade, A Short Illustrated History (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1983) and numerous other books on the slave trade.
15 Political correctness -- to be correct "politically" -- is the opposite of being correct in a scholarly manner. Scholarship seeks truth. Politics does not. Politics seeks to persuade or intimidate so power can be won. Sometimes truth is used. Oftentimes lies are used such as President Obama's "If you like you healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan. Period." which was labeled by Politifact the Lie of the Year for 2013.
16 Joe Gray Taylor, in attempting to examine the causes of the war 25 years ago, notes that David H. Donald "seems to have been correct when he said in 1960 that the causation of the Civil War was dead as a serious subject of historical analysis" and that "A 'Southern' point of view on the secession crisis no longer exists among professional historians." These quotations come from Joe Gray Taylor, "The White South from Secession to Redemption," in John B. Boles and Evelyn Thomas Nolen, Interpreting Southern History, Historiographical Essays in Honor of Sanford W. Higginbotham (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987), 162-164. (Bold emphasis added.)
17 Eugene D. Genovese, The Southern Tradition, The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1994), xi-xii. Dr. Genovese passed away September 26, 2012.
18 The 1987 NAACP anti-Confederate-battle-flag resolution was passed at their Southeast Region Convention in March of that year and can be found in Don Hinkle, Embattled Banner, A Reasonable Defense of the Confederate Battle Flag (Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 1997), 23-25. The 1991 resolution can be found in NAACP convention minutes from that year, as cited in Hinkle, Embattled Banner, 157-186.
19 English Standard Version of the Bible, Proverbs 18:17.