GDG- NPS, Slavery and Economies

joadx1 at joadx1 at
Thu Jan 5 11:59:28 CST 2012

This is not a simplistic view; in fact, a number of modern analyses of the Civil War focus precisely on the economic aspects of the conflict.  One that I have read indicates that one of the reasons why non-slave-owning southerners fought to protect slavery was because so much of the southern economy was founded upon it that everyone would suffer economically if it disappeared.

And while it would take us too far away from the parameters of this discussion board, I would argue (and do argue in my own professional work) that the peculiar institution of money has a particularly powerful role in our history, past and present, that is often misunderstood or ignored.  But I will go no further on that.

But I will add that the matter of slavery and the Civil War is overdetermined--that is, there is more than one cause at work here.  Beyond the very real economic dimensions of the matter are the racial ones (I do not want to dwell on this, but racial hatred and feelings racial superiority are also involved); the social class ones (the plantation aristocracy was able to paper over the class inequalities in the south by telling southern yeomen that without slavery they would be part of a menial class, but with it they were part of a ruling caste); and simple fear: the southerners were very well aware that they had, in many regions, established slave populations that were much larger than the white populations, and they were terrified of a slave rebellion on the order of the successful rebellion in Haiti.

There are yet other parts to this ugly puzzle, but your own suggestion is a very important part of it all.




-----Original Message-----
From: Andy Mills <amills at>
To: GDG <gettysburg at>
Sent: Thu, Jan 5, 2012 9:44 am
Subject: GDG- NPS, Slavery and Economies

Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
My apologies as I am not the best at getting ideas and thoughts out of my head 
and rationalizing them so others can understand.  

Having made my disclaimer, I am curious as to why the war wasn't all about 

Secession caused the war and slavery caused secession, I think based on emails I 
have read over the last couple days, everyone agrees with this statement.

But what caused slavery?  The immediate cause was the need for cheap labor 
centuries before the civil war, so the underlying cause of slavery was money, 
ergo money caused slavery and slavery caused secession so the root cause was 

I understand that by 1860, there was also a racial element to America's slavery 
and part of the reason for maintaining the system was this racial element but I 
don't think this was the major force in maintaining the "peculiar institution", 
as the major force was simply put:  money.

So why wouldn't the root cause then be economics, that without allowing slavery 
into the territories, slavery would slowly die and as a result, so would the way 
of life for the slave holding aristocrats of the South and their desire to 
maintain slavery was a desire to maintain their statuses, income, etc.  

One example would be Hampton Plantation outside Baltimore.  It was one of the 
largest and richest prior to the Civil War but slowly fell into a period of 
decline once slavery was banished from the country until the NPS saved the 
mansion future generations (yes, I know other organizations originally saved it 
in 1948, but didn't want to go into all the history of it).  We can look at many 
of the James River plantations that had to open their doors to the public to 
preserve and protect their properties because they were no longer sustainable 
once slavery was abolished.  

I agree that the original south seceded to protect slavery, but underneath that, 
slavery was there to support their income / economies, so if you want to say 
slavery led to secession which lead to the war, why can't you further define it 
that money led to slavery which lead to secession which led to war and as such, 
the root cause is the all powerful dollar?

I understand this is a simplistic view and possibly an incorrect view of the 
situation, but to me, secession caused the war and a desire to protect slavery 
led to secession (I understand that you can't separate slavery from 1860 South), 
but the root cause of slavery was money.  American slavery / chattel slavery 
wasn't like the Native Americans that took slaves from rival tribes to help 
replenish their population, or Rome that took slaves from captured armies.  
Slaves in those societies were not the basis of the economies as it was in the 
Antebellum South.  

I hope this makes sense, but wanted to get some viewpoints to see if this is a 
valid opinion or is full of holes.


-----Original Message-----
From: gettysburg-bounces at [mailto:gettysburg-bounces at] On 
Behalf Of John Lawrence
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2012 8:48 PM
Subject: Re: GDG- NPs & Slavery

>I am not arguing  whether not Lincoln could have  have chosen another 
>method to react to secession.  I'm not arguing Lincoln did not go to
>war to preserve the union.   I am simply stating the  historical fact
>that secession was caused by slavery and war was the result.
>It is impossible to have any discussion of the causes of the war or the 
>cause secession without the inclusion of slavery.
>The indisputable point is  slavery was the cause of secession which was 
>the cause of the war.
>The other what-ifs do not apply to that.
>Take Care

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