Was the Civil War about slavery?

Civil war

NEWS FLASH: The Civil War was about slavery!

I’m not sure why this is controversial today, but that was the primary issue at the time. Ya, there is states’ rights attached to the issue, but the motivator for it was slavery because of economic reasons.

But if you prideful southerners stick with this article, I’ll outline why the Confederate flag doesn’t necessarily equate to racism, so you can keep flying that flag of yours.


We all know there was a Civil War in the United States, and that the War was in fact the United States vs. the Confederate States … right?

… I hope we all know that.

Now. First question … why was the Confederacy formed?

Well, some of the states answered that question in their Confederate Declarations:

Georgia was pretty definitive: “The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its leaders and applauded by its followers.” — charging the Union.

“The prohibition of slavery in the Territories is the cardinal principle of this organization.” — referring to the Union.

Mississippi was pretty whimsical with it: “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. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun.”

South Carolina got a bit more complex in the reasoning:

First, saying that Lincoln’s party will “On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.”

Then going to the conclusion that, “The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.”

So they’re saying that because Lincoln will abolish slavery, they must leave the Union.

Texas also got whimsical, and pretty explicit: “She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.”

… and got super-racist when it said, “That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.”

… Virginia seemed pretty much removed from the slavery stuff and just said they would join.

So why join a confederacy? Because then each state would have the right to do what it wants, and essentially all of the states wanted slavery.

… I don’t know why this is a controversial fact in the south, especially because the states explicitly said their reasons.


There actually is quite a bit of research about mass denial within societies. If one were interested, you could check out research done in post-genocidal societies. Places like Rwanda, Bosnia, or Armenia are good examples. Others can be holocaust deniers.

The thing about some of these places is that descendants of perpetrators violently deny wrongdoing, or they pawn off the responsibility somewhere else. Some say it was because of the political party at the time, others say they were products of a conspiracy, and others just flat out deny genocide happened.

Researchers have different reasons why that happens, but the overall conclusion is that these societies will forever have problems until the perpetrators, or descendants thereof, acknowledge wrongdoing, and adjust conduct moving forward. There are also lots of psychological studies on how the descendants of the victims cope with an atmosphere where perpetrators deny any wrongdoing. It’s interesting (and morbid) stuff to read about.

But I would say the same phenomena occurs in the United States to some extent.

There are lots of people in the south who deny the Civil War was even about slavery (I think some might think the south won), and that the southern states were victims of some bigger conspiracy. There are lots of ways that southerns justify their ancestral behavior, and denial is pretty pervasive in the rural south. I’ve heard some people say Lincoln secretly wanted a war, or that it was all a ploy to get the states to be dictated by the northern capitalists … an plenty of other conspiracies.

But, come on, the Civil War was fought over slavery (by extension, it was economics deriving from that system). The bottom line is that the rich, white aristocracy was making a very good living on the backs of free labor. Once that standard of living exists, there is no way the wealthy class will let that go.

WHAT about the Confederate FLAG!?

Obviously this is the big controversy these days. Is the flag itself racist? Well, the flag represents an organization that fully supported slavery, and used slavery to justify a war. So I would say yes.

But should the flag be flown at state buildings? … that’s another question.

It’s safe to say that the flag obviously carries some baggage. It’s also safe to say that not everyone in southern states supports the flag because of this controversy. So, I can see why flying the flag (that supposedly represents the ENTIRE state) is controversial.

So should the flag be flown at public buildings? I would say that if there is a majority of the state who doesn’t want it to (voted by alleged representative politicians), then it shouldn’t be flown.

As far as flying it on an individual level … go ahead. The principle of liberty dictates that you can do that. I would say that it reveals the so-called “southern pride” of someone.

And as far as “southern pride” is concerned, I would say that it’s a myth people create in their heads … like a tall tale. The “pride” is really just a pool of likeminded and similar people who get riled up when people want to change something in the south. I mean really, “southern pride” seems to be a group of hardcore, primitive Constitutional libertarians who like the idea of being a bandit against the law.

Contemporary “southern pride” has more to do with outlawishness than it does slavery.

The flag issue covers a lot of questions, and lumping those together gets people riled up.

In reality the flag “issue” consists of a few questions:

1) Can we assume people flying the Confederate flag indicates racist world-views? No, because the “southern pride” wraps together conceptions of libertarianism, an outlaw mentality, yells of states’ rights, and overall political skepticism.

2) Should the flag be flown at public buildings? If a majority says no, then no.

3) Does the flag intrinsically represent racist world-views? Yes, because I already established that the Civil War was in fact about racist world-views, and the flag represented a coalition of these world-views.

HOWEVER, can you conclude that anyone who flyies the flag is racist? Naw, because of the popular phenomena of “southern pride,” which is really just something else, and they use the flag to represent it because DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO! — although they could quite likely be racist at the same time, and it’s a person by person basis.

… this also doesn’t address underlying racial slurs, innuendos, or other mechanisms that keep racism alive.

I hope this clarifies something. … but more than likely I riled some southern feathers.


7 thoughts on “Was the Civil War about slavery?

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