29 November 2010

Slavery and secession

Another interesting but mostly just upsetting New York Times article on commemorating the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War: Katharine Q. Seelye’s “Celebrating Secession without the Slaves.” The South has spent the last century and a half denying that the war had anything to do with slavery: it was all about “states’ rights,” we are told ‒ with the only right really in question being the right of states to permit slavery.

All this is old news, though. What I liked in this piece was a very succinct statement, from University of Illinois sociologist James Loewen, of how slavery related to the start of the war:

The North did not go to war to end slavery, it went to war to hold the country together and only gradually did it become anti-slavery ‒ but slavery is why the South seceded.

Simple, really: while the North didn’t fight to end slavery, the South did fight to preserve it.

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