In the minds of Mississippians, the threat posed by the Lincoln administration to slavery was the “immediate cause” that induced the secession of Mississippi from the Union. They were drawing a fine legal distinction between proximate causation and ultimate causation.
If you have ever known someone who crashed their car and was killed while drunk driving, the immediate cause of death would be the crash. However, the proximate cause or ultimate cause would be drunk driving. Mississippi was saying that slavery was only the immediate cause. According to Jefferson Davis, it was the “occasion” of secession or the particular grievance that triggered it in 1861.
What’s the difference? “As nouns the difference between cause and occasion is that cause is the source or reason of an event or action while occasion is a favorable opportunity; a convenient or timely chance.” It’s like being in a bad relationship that ends over one particularly awful incident, say, you are dating a whore that cheats on you is the final straw, but the ultimate cause is that she is a whore. Mississippi was saying that it was in a bad long term relationship with Yankees and wanted a divorce and that being antagonized by them over slavery was only a timely chance cause of the recent rupture.
A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.
“In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
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. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.
The hostility to this institution commenced before the adoption of the Constitution, and was manifested in the well-known Ordinance of 1787, in regard to the Northwestern Territory.
The feeling increased, until, in 1819-20, it deprived the South of more than half the vast territory acquired from France.
The same hostility dismembered Texas and seized upon all the territory acquired from Mexico.
It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction.
It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.
It tramples the original equality of the South under foot.
It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.
It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.
It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice.
It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists.
It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better.
It has invaded a State, and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives.
It has broken every compact into which it has entered for our security.
It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system.
It knows no relenting or hesitation in its purposes; it stops not in its march of aggression, and leaves us no room to hope for cessation or for pause.
It has recently obtained control of the Government, by the prosecution of its unhallowed schemes, and destroyed the last expectation of living together in friendship and brotherhood.
Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.
Our decision is made. We follow their footsteps. We embrace the alternative of separation; and for the reasons here stated, we resolve to maintain our rights with the full consciousness of the justice of our course, and the undoubting belief of our ability to maintain it.”
That’s very true. Have read that statement many times. However it’s sad that Southerners didn’t realize that White Nationalism was better for the future of the South. My view is the South should have seceded for a different reason and deported the Slaves back to Africa. That would have prevented a bunch of future problems. The same rich mentality behind Slavery is the same one behind Illegal Immigration. The goal should be right the course and have true White Nationalism. Deo Vindice !
Great observation. The irony of the 19th century conflict over slavery was that the opponents of the spread of slavery (A. Lincoln) wanted to reserve the lands of the west for WHITE farmers. Most northern states had “black codes” and didn’t want blacks to migrate there.
Slave owners wanted to spread slavery all over the country and to increase the dangers created by close proximity to blacks. The southern slave aristocracy was very short sighted. Slavery was not viable in the long run as slave birth rates exploded and blacks increasingly outnumbered whites in many locations.
All this rhapsodizing about the Confederacy is very counter productive, however it may increase our knowledge of history. The Confederacy was based on a globalist, free trade economic model. The north was based on the nationalistic, protectionist model. The South could not ultimately survive because it was totally dependent on overseas manufacturers for ordnance and support. It could not equip its own armies, which was the problem of the 13 colonies during the war for independence. The founders realized they could not secure national existence without being commercially independent of France and Great Britain. That was the reason for the Commerce Clause, among other reasons.
Southern states had a right to secede. Even A. Lincoln affirmed this right throughout his career, until he was sworn in as president. Once they seceded, however, the North should have been under no obligation to recognize fugitive slave laws or to allow Southerners to export the institution of slavery into any other state outside the South.
This would have reconciled the slavery issue by force the south to survive without this institution being subsidized and protected by the US Government. It would have spared the lives of 700,000 Americans who lost their lives in an unnecessary war between the states.
In 1832, constitution of Mississippi was amended to prevent the importation of slaves by slave trades from other states by slave traders, effective 1833, and all slaves effective 1845. This constitutional amendment was among several legislative responses to slave revolts in Virginia and other locations and a recognition of the dangers in having so many blacks who could rise up. See the US Sup. Ct. opinion Groves v. Slaughter (1841) 40 US 449 https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/40/449.html in which this provision was challenged as an unconstitutional violation of the commerce clause.
Ultimately the amendment was held unenforceable because it was never codified in a statute, but was only passed as a constitutional amendment.
The point is, in the early 1800’s there was a great public reaction among Southern whites against the institution of slavery and the presence of blacks in light of the threat they represented. Anti slave whites were countered politically by pro slave whites and the pendulum of political power swung back and forth, just like to day in the political battle between open borders advocates and nationalists.
Interestingly enough, when the first 7 southern states seceded in early 1861 and held their constitutional convention, they voted 6 to 1 AGAINST re opening the international slave trade. Only South Carolina voted to re open the trade. (As one editorial writer famously wrote in 1861, “South Carolina is too small to be a country and too large to be an insane asylum.”) This means, among other things, that there was more organized political opposition to the International Slave trade in the Confederacy than in all of Africa, whose rules profited from exporting their own people.
Slavery was not compatible with modern white civilization. It was harmful to the interests of most white people and was not, in the long run, economically viable.
I’ve been deliberately bouncing around across every epoch of Southern history – the colonial era, the American Revolution, the Early Republic, the antebellum era, the Confederacy, Reconstruction, Redemption, the New South, the Jim Crow South, the Progressive Era, the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Cold War, the Sunbelt. The long term goal here in this series is to expand into virtually every aspect of the South. I’ve got two pending book reviews coming up on Southern agriculture and the Southern environment.
Great post, thanks for taking the time to write it.
“My view is the South should have seceded for a different reason and deported the Slaves back to Africa.”
It wouldn’t have stopped the Yankees one bit. They wanted to crush their political enemies in the South, no matter what. The North had rival factions who, in spite of their rivalry and mutual animosity, all saw the Southern People as standing in the way of their various power grabbing, money making and social engineering schemes.
Slavery was the chink in the South’s political armour. After all of the North’s political attacks had failed, they redefined a political argument that they couldn’t win, as a moral argument that they could. The South was right, legally, Constitutionally and politically. The Yankees just ignored it and fought the war that they had been wanting to fight since 1787.
I can’t remember who said it, but here’s a quote from around the time of the War:
“Had slavery not existed, the North would have conjured another moral rationale for invading the South.”
Simple fact is, the North and South are two different countries, which the Crown failed to separate, like it did Canada from the other American colonies. And which, for various reasons, made a union they shouldn’t have.
Conflict between to rival nations sharing the same geography is all but inevitable, regardless of pretext or excuse
After what happened in Seventeenth Century England, James, Cavaliers should have known better than to invite war with Puritans.
PS In case, James, that you’re not familiar with it …
“Slave owners wanted to spread slavery all over the country and to increase the dangers created by close proximity to blacks. The southern slave aristocracy was very short sighted. Slavery was not viable in the long run as slave birth rates exploded and blacks increasingly outnumbered whites in many locations.”
Yep. Classic Yankee propaganda designed to get people in Illinois and Wisconsin stired up for war against their own country.
Only the first sentence is false, the rest is true. They didn’t intend to increase societal danger, but their greed and short-sightedness guaranteed it. Surely you won’t argue that slavery was a wise practice.
Basically, the mainstream historians have got this topic–the reasons for the War Between the States–correct. I am tired of those who say it was all about states’ rights and not so much about slavery. States’ right as it relates to slavery as the main driver are indeed correct.
What strikes me right away is the level of language. This is clearly written by and for men who, despite their differences, cared about how they expressed themselves and knew how to do it. I cannot imagine any kind of government document today being crafted with such excellence of speech. It would be roundly condemned as “elitist.” And in that lies so much of our woe.
I enjoyed this read immensely.