American Civil War

Thu Jul 10 07:28:45 MDT 2003

The cause of the Civil War in America has been a sensitive issue since before
the war broke out. I never forget that thousands of white men died to
overthrow the slave power - never. I also never forget that the sensitive nature has
to come from somewhere. Why is this a sensitive issue in America, not simply
amongst comrades and intellectuals?

Part of the reason is that many people thought and felt that owning human
beings as your personal property is a crime against nature and God. The treatment
of the black after the Civil War was in many ways worse than slavery, with
the defeat of Reconstruction. This contradiction is part of the reason for the
sensitive nature of the cause of the Civil War.

Lincoln certainly vacillated but he was elected as an antislavery candidate
and ran on the platform of a political party formed on the basis of organized
armed resistance to the intrusion of slavery into Kansas. Throughout the North
and Northwest people - white peoples, formed associations and organizations to
send men, arms and money to send to Kansas a military force to halt the
expansion of slavery and out of these relief organizations the Republican party -
the part of Lincoln, was formed.

This was not a human rights issue as we understand the term today, but then
it was. The issue was not one inch of land to be seceded to the slave power.
The slave power was called the slave power because it was a social power with
political representatives in control of the government based on property in the
form of the slave. The fight against the slave power was against that which
gave them their power - slavery.

Thousand marched into battle and gave their lives singing, "He died to make
men Holy Let us die to make them Free."  "Practice is higher than theory," or I
remind myself when digging in on an issue.  The truth of the Civil War and
its impact on the South is just starting to come forward. Lots of people got
hurt. How do you tell your kids that in history your family fought to preserve

Marx is correct.

"The question of the principle of the American Civil War is answered by the
battle slogan with which the South broke the peace. Stephens, the
Vice-president of the Southern Confederacy, declared in the Secession Congress that what
essentially distinguished the Constitution newly hatched at Montgomery from the
Constitution of Washington and Jefferson was that now for the first time
slavery was recognized as an institution good in itself, and as the foundation of
the whole state edifice, whereas the revolutionary fathers, men steeped in the
prejudices of the eighteenth century, had treated slavery as an evil imported
from England and to be eliminated in the course of time. Another matador of
the South, Mr. Spratt, cried out:

"For us it is a question of founding a great slave republic." If, therefore,
it was indeed only in defense of the Union that the North drew the sword, had
not the South already declared that the continuance of slavery was no longer
compatible with the continuance of the Union? "

"In the Secessionist Congress at Montgomery, Senator Toombs, one of the
spokesmen of the South, strikingly formulated the economic law that commands the
constant expansion of the territory of slavery. "In fifteen years," said he,
"without a great increase in slave territory, either the slaves must be permitted
to flee from the whites, or the whites must flee from the slaves."

"When the Democrats of the North declined to go on playing the part of the
poor whites of the South, the South secured Lincoln's victory by splitting the
vote, and then took this victory as a pretext for drawing the sword from the
The whole movement was and is based, as one sees, on the slave question. Not
in the sense of whether the slaves within the existing slave states should be
emancipated outright or not, but whether the twenty million free men of the
North should submit any longer to an oligarchy of three hundred thousand
slaveholders; whether the vast Territories of the republic should be nurseries for
free states or for slavery; finally, whether the national policy of the Union
should take armed spreading of slavery in Mexico, Central and South America as
its device.

In another article we will probe the assertion of the London press that the
North must sanction secession as the most favorable and only possible solution
of the conflict."

Marx October 25, 1961

"What would in fact take place would be not a dissolution of the Union, but a
reorganization of it, a reorganization on the basis of slavery, under the
recognized control of the slaveholding oligarchy. The plan of such a
reorganization has been openly proclaimed by the principal speakers of the South at the
Congress of Montgomery and explains the paragraph of the new Constitution which
leaves it open to every state of the old Union to join the new Confederacy.
The slave system would infect the whole Union. In the Northern states, where
Negro slavery is in practice unworkable, the white working class would gradually
be forced down to the level of helotry. This would fully accord with the
loudly proclaimed principle that only certain races are capable of freedom, and as
the actual labour is the lot of the Negro in the South, so in the North it is
the lot of the German and the Irishman, or their direct descendants.

The present struggle between the South and North is, therefore, nothing but a
struggle between two social systems, the system of slavery and the system of
free labour. The struggle has broken out because the two systems can no longer
live peacefully side-by-side on the North American continent. It can only be
ended by the victory of one system or the other."

Published November 7, 1861 - Karl Marx

"The old leaders of the Democratic Party, Senator Dickinson and Croswell (a
former member of the so-called Democratic regency), have published an open
letter in which they express their agreement with Cochrane and Cameron, and
Colonel Jennison in Kansas has surpassed all his military predecessors by an address
to his troops which contains the following passage:

No temporizing with rebels and those sympathizing with them. I have told
General Fremont that I would not have drawn my sword had I thought that slavery
would outlast this struggle. The slaves of rebels will always find protection in
this camp and we will defend them to the last man and the last bullet. I want
no men who are not Abolitionists, I have no use for them and I hope that
there are no such people among us, for everyone knows that slavery is the basis,
the center and the vertex of this infernal war. Should the government
disapprove of my action it can take back my patent, but in that case I shall act on my
own hook even if in the beginning I can only count on six men.

The slavery question is being solved in practice in the border slave states
even now, especially in Missouri and to a lesser extent in Kentucky, etc. A
large-scale dispersal of slaves is taking place. For instance 50,000 slaves have
disappeared from Missouri, some of them have run away, others have been
transported by the slave-owners to the more distant southern states.

It is rather strange that a most important and significant event is not
mentioned in any English newspaper. On November 18, delegates from 45 North
Carolina counties met on Hatteras Island, appointed a provisional government, revoked
the Ordinance of Secession and proclaimed that North Carolina was returning
to the Union. The counties of North Carolina represented at this convention
have been called together to elect their Representatives to Congress at

December 14, 1861 - Karl Marx

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