Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War by Charles B. DewIn late 1860 and early 1861, state-appointed commissioners traveled the length and breadth of the slave South carrying a fervent message in pursuit of a clear goal: to persuade the political leadership and the citizenry of the uncommitted slave states to join in the effort to destroy the Union and forge a new Southern nation.
Directly refuting the neo-Confederate contention that slavery was neither the reason for secession nor the catalyst for the resulting onset of hostilities in 1861, Charles B. Dew finds in the commissioners brutally candid rhetoric a stark white supremacist ideology that proves the contrary. The commissioners included in their speeches a constitutional justification for secession, to be sure, and they pointed to a number of political outrages committed by the North in the decades prior to Lincolns election. But the core of their argument--the reason the right of secession had to be invoked and invoked immediately--did not turn on matters of constitutional interpretation or political principle. Over and over again, the commissioners returned to the same point: that Lincolns election signaled an unequivocal commitment on the part of the North to destroy slavery and that emancipation would plunge the South into a racial nightmare.
Dews discovery and study of the highly illuminating public letters and speeches of these apostles of disunion--often relatively obscure men sent out to convert the unconverted to the secessionist cause--have led him to suggest that the arguments the commissioners presented provide us with the best evidence we have of the motives behind the secession of the lower South in 1860-61.
Addressing topics still hotly debated among historians and the public at large more than a century after the Civil War, Dew challenges many current perceptions of the causes of the conflict. He offers a compelling and clearly substantiated argument that slavery and race were absolutely critical factors in the outbreak of war--indeed, that they were at the heart of our great national crisis.
6 Civil War Myths, Busted
The most widespread myth is also the most basic. In fact, Loewen said, the original documents of the Confederacy show quite clearly that the war was based on one thing: slavery. For example, in its declaration of secession, Mississippi explained, "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world … a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. The right of transit, Loewen said, was the right of slaveholders to bring their slaves along with them on trips to non-slaveholding states. In its justification of secession, Texas sums up its view of a union built upon slavery: "We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race , for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
Causes Of The Civil War Summary
With a volley of artillery fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, , the South started a war that nearly destroyed the United States in pursuit of a terrible cause. In that conflict more than , soldiers were killed or wounded in four years of hellish war.
The Northern and Southern sections of the United States developed along different lines. The South remained a predominantly agrarian economy while the North became more and more industrialized. Different social cultures and political beliefs developed. All of this led to disagreements on issues such as taxes, tariffs and internal improvements as well as states rights versus federal rights. The burning issue that led to the disruption of the union was the debate over the future of slavery. That dispute led to secession, and secession brought about a war in which the Northern and Western states and territories fought to preserve the Union, and the South fought to establish Southern independence as a new confederation of states under its own constitution.