Feedback: A Common-Sense View of Slavery

Published:April 10, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

A reader named Jamie Spivey left us the following response to our Lost Cause entry (emphasis added):

The academic analysis always misses the common sense analysis. It was not a “Civil War” at all since the South had no intention of displacing the Union government. If consent was required for ratification of the Union, then withdrawl of that consent, secession, was legal.  Martialing US troops against their own citizens was blatantly illegal. If free blacks in Africa could have known how much better (healthier, more peaceful and longer lasting) their lives would be as slaves in America, they would have lined up to get on the ships.  Slaves endured no greater hardship than the oxen which farmers kept fed and healthy for their own livelihood. Planters didn’t capreciously whip $50K (in today’s dollars) assets for the fun of it. Not a great life, but better than dying at the tip of a spear in Africa. And better than the genocide upon the native Americans which the Union government undertook with little remorse then, or since. Wars are usually about economics. It was only important that new slave states be admitted in equal numbers because that characteristic would forever define the voting character of those senators: industrial or agrarian. And because the North already had 4 to 1 representation in the House, the Senate was the only body left to stop unfair tariff legislation. The war was about slavery like the Titanic was about icebergs: everpresent, but not the animated forces responsible for its sinking, and not the lesson to be learned therefrom. Nor was the death of 600,000 Americans anywhere near proportionate to the level of evil that slavery actually was, an institution which would have died out peacefully a couple of decades later. Okay, you can go back to your scholarly works, now.

Okay, we will.

IMAGE: A watercolor and ink drawing from the notebook of Lewis Miller depicting a coffle of slaves being driven from Staunton, in Augusta County, to Tennessee (The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)


3 Comments on “Feedback: A Common-Sense View of Slavery”

  1. Elizabeth McCullough

    Brendan, I know this kind of reasoning has been around since…well, since the beginning of slavery in the New World — but in your opinion are people feeling more comfortable about expressing it these days? I’m seeing these kinds of comments about race and slavery *everywhere.* And not just from politicians.

    For some reason, these attitudes also appear to interfere with the ability to spell.

  2. Brendan Wolfe Post author

    Great question, Elizabeth. I wish I knew the answer. My best guess is that the Internet broadcasts what has always been there, but much farther and wider and louder than ever before.

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