GDG- NPs & Slavery

Peter Skillman pskillman at
Tue Jan 3 10:04:25 CST 2012


Not to get off on the secession tangent too much again, but...

The war was about secession.  The south seceded over slavery.  On that we agree, so the root cause of the war was slavery, because it caused what you seem to view as the "real" cause.

Certainly, by the time of Gettysburg, you have the Emancipation Proclamation, so it's pretty easy to make an argument that by the time of Gettysburg, slavery was the "reason" for the war.  I'll go a step further, though.

At the end of the war (within 5 years and as a condition of rejoining the Union) Congress passed the people ratified 3 Constitutional amendments: 13, 14, and 15.  These amendments were meant to ensure that we would not go to war with each other like that ever again.  Where is secession mentioned in those amendments?  If the war was truly ultimately about secession, and you wanted to make sure that the war never happened again, wouldn't you want to pretty clearly spell out that secession was illegal and make the losing side sign off on that fact before you let them back in?

What they ended up codifying and making the "losers" sign off on was that slavery was not allowed AT ALL (in fact, that was the VERY FIRST thing they did), that the rights possessed as US citizens could not be usurped or countermanded unilaterally by the states, and that race and color could not be used to keep people from voting.  All things that were slavery-related.

There is still no mention of secession in the Constitution, leaving some to think that it is OK for states to do, but the fact of the matter is that the states aren't parties to the Constitution.  The Constitution begins "We the people..." NOT "We the states..."  The states have no more right to claim their citizens are exempt from it (they can't take away your freedom of speech, for example as that is a US citizen's right) than the power company has the right to exempt you from paying your phone bill.  Your US citizenship and your state citizenship are two separate things.  That was the biggest change from the old Articles of Confederation.

 - Pete S.

On Jan 3, 2012, at 10:42 AM, Tom Ryan wrote:

> Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
> Pete,
> I agree that the CW timeline at the VC is an excellent idea, since it places
> the Battle of Gettysburg in perspective.  However, the argument here seems
> to be a necessity to inform visitors about the slavery issue related to the
> CW -- as if slavery was the central focus of the war.
> The reason the war was fought was not over slavery, but over secession.
> Lincoln's first inaugural address made this abundantly clear.  While the
> Southern states seceded over the slavery issue, the North went to war to
> preserve the Union -- and for no other reason.
> Even when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in January 1863, the
> purpose was to make slavery a war-related issue not a moral or political
> one.
> In a nutshell, the heavy focus of the introductory film at the Gettysburg VC
> tends IMO to distort these important facts, and to emphasize slavery beyond
> its true significance regarding the war itself.  While slavery was the key
> factor for secession, it played virtually no role in the decision of the
> North to invade the South in retaliation for firing on Fort Sumter.
> Therefore, the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg and the campaign
> should be placed in the context of preserving the Union, since it had no
> direct bearing on the slavery issue whatsoever.
> Tom Ryan
> --------------------
> One of my initial impressions of the new VC the first time I was there (back
> when the museum was free) was that I LOVED the approach of walking through
> the entire timeline of the war - they didn't just include Gettysburg.  My
> thoughts then (and now) echo yours - Gettysburg will probably be the first
> (if not only) exposure that many people get to the Civil War, and people
> travel from all over the country - from all over the world, in fact - to
> visit.  The inclusion of more information will not only lead to better
> contextual understanding in the grand scheme of where the war fits in US
> history, but also where Gettysburg fits in Civil War history (i.e. it was
> not the ONLY battle).
> Someone visiting from Tennessee might learn of Chattanooga, Franklin, or
> Nashville and go see the battles that happened closer to home.  A family
> from Mississippi might decide to check out Vicksburg as a day trip.  Someone
> from Kansas may leave with an appreciation for the events of "Bleeding
> Kansas."  Heck, even British visitors may acquire some understanding of how
> their country's dependence on cotton factored into the events leading up to
> the Gettysburg campaign.
> We all know that the more personal a connection you can make to something,
> the more it will stick.  The more information included at the most-visited
> battlefield park in the country, the more chance that new interests will
> form, and that new historians will be born.
> - Pete
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