[Marxism] Lincoln

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Mon Apr 10 12:55:01 MDT 2006


Actually, the Republicans were a much more complex coalition than 
this.  Most (but not all, by any means) Americans who wanted to 
abolish slavery were Republicans.  Almost all (though not all) free 
blacks in the North with opinions on the subject both wanted to 
abolish slavery and favored the Republicans.  The exclusion of slavery was
simply the common denominator to which even the most conservative
Republicans would agree.  (It should be noted that some of the early
Republican state parties in the east dragged their feet at going that far.)


CB: Do you mean by "exclusion of slavery" exclusion from the western
territories , not abolition where it already existed ? Wasn't the Republican
Party main position, not abolish slavery where it existed, but deny it the
right to expand to the western territories ?  The Abolitionists would have
been a minority of the Republicans and Republican voters, no ? However,
exclusion from the new territories was equivalent to abolition , because of
the economic factors Marx analyzes in "  The North American Civil War " (see
prior post)

CB also wrote, "As Marx demonstrated in his economic analysis of 
slavery, preventing it from expanding territorially was equivalent to
strangling it. The slavocracy knew this, and attacked Fort Sumter upon the
election of Lincoln because of the inevitable objective impact of the
Republican platform position, regardless of what the Big Man Lincoln said."


Lincoln wasn't particularly "the Big Man" of 1860, save in hindsight.  Any
number of Republicans, like William H. Seward were much more prominent and
popular, even in Republican ranks. 

CB: Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that he was the biggest man, just one of
them by virtue of becoming President , for one. 


The secessionists didn't attack Fort Sumter "upon the election of 
Lincoln."  The election was November 1860, and the attack wasn't until
mid-April 1861, a bit over five very busy months for the slaveholders. 

CB: Yeauuhh. How about _because_ of the election of Lincoln, with the
Republican platform of preventing expansion of slavery to the new


Most importantly, it is just not at all clear that limiting the 
expansion of slavery would have had any "inevitable objective impact," much
less the strangulation of the institution.  There had been some limits to
the expansion of slavery all along, but it grew even more profitable and

CB: This is worth discussing. Why did the South attack and secede , then ?


Most importantly, the reason for secession was that the cotton 
planters dominated the nation since the 1820s.  They were the most 
powerful force in the Democratic Party, which was the dominant power 
in from the days of Jackson.  Through their control of the party and 
the party's control of the national government, the most rabid 
slaveholders exercised a virtual veto over policies they didn't want,
whether slavery was involved or not. 

CB: Marx and Aptheker agree.


 But, more than this, the 
slaveholders wanted a much more actively expansionist foreign policy,
extending "Manifest Destiny" to Mexico, Cuba, Central America and the
"Golden Circle."  The idea was that this would get control of areas into
which slavery could be expanded or reintroduced (as it was eliminated in a
lot of these places when they expelled the Spanish).  
The Republican opposition to such madness was perhaps as important as their
positions on the western territories already in US hands, 
because it threatened what the slaveholders saw as the future of their
institution (which was obviously going to do 
better where the geography and the climate suited traditional 
plantations rather than...well, Nebraska.

CB: Yea, Republican opposition to expansion into western territory includes
no expansion into the SouthWESTERN territories ,etc. Republicans opposed
expansion to any new territories.
"The vitally important point in this platform was that not a foot of fresh
terrain was conceded to slavery." 

However, this entire idea of an "inevitable objective impact" is 
probably rooted in the idea that soil exhaustion would destroy the use of
slavery for cotton plantations in the slaveholding states and lead to the
abandonment of the institution.  It was a popular idea in the 1920s, I
think.  However, a number of studies from the 1960s and 70s demonstrated how
slavery was workable in some urban and industrial enterprises in the South.

CB; Sounds like pretty scholastic studies. In practice, the slave owners
seemed to think that they needed new agricultural territory, like vampires.
I'll go with Marx (and the slaveocacy themselves) on this economic question:

"The cultivation of the southern export articles, cotton, tobacco, sugar
,etc., carried on by slaves, is only remunerative as long as it is conducted
with large gangs of slaves, on a mass scale and on wide expanses of a
naturally fertile soil, which requires only simple labour. Intensive
cultivation, which depends less on fertility of the soil than on investment
of capital, intelligence and energy of labour, is contrary to the nature of
slavery. Hence the rapid transformation of states like Maryland and
Virginia, which formerly employed slaves on the production of export
articles, into states which raise slaves to export them into the deep South.
Even in South Carolina, where the slaves form four-sevenths of the
population, the cultivation of cotton has been almost completely stationary
for years due to the exhaustion of the soil. Indeed, by force of
circumstances South Carolina has already been transformed in part into a
slave-raising state, since it already sells slaves to the sum of four
million dollars yearly to the states of the extreme South and South-west. As
soon as this point is reached, the acquisition of new Territories becomes
necessary, so that one section of the slaveholders with their slaves may
occupy new fertile lands and that a new market for slave-raising, therefore
for the sale of slaves, may be created for the remaining section. It is, for
example, indubitable that without the acquisition of Louisiana, Missouri and
Arkansas by the United States, slavery in Virginia and Maryland would have
been wiped out long ago. 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." 


How's that for a thought?  There were industrial workers in 1860 who 
were owned by companies and the owners of companies.  

While we're at it, let's just discard the entire notion of 

Mark L.


CB: Naw. The end of capitalism is inevitable , one way or the other.

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