[Marxism] Eric Foner letter on Lincoln

Charlie charles1848 at sbcglobal.net
Sat Dec 1 17:42:36 MST 2012

Looking back, we fall into seeing slavery as the crucial issue of the 
Civil War. The cry of the North, however, was Save the Union. The issue 
behind that banner not slavery in itself. The issue was the expansionism 
of the slave system. Economically, the big slaveholders and slave 
breeders needed new land; politically, they needed to maintain their 
domination of the federal government, hence the new states and their 
representation in Congress.

The free farmers of the North and the Midwest then being settled came 
into irreconcilable contradiction with this slave system. So, too, did 
the Northern industrial capitalists. Much of the North was willing to 
let slavery persist in the South, hopefully dying out over time, if it 
could be contained there. But they learned that it could not.

The slave system and the big slaveholders' domination of the federal 
government was broken. That led to the end of slavery, but it did not 
rule out a tamed plantation system in the South.

The question is not: who moved history, Lincoln or the slaves? Lincoln 
was the head of the coalition that could not accept the expansionist 
slave system. There was a great mass of people in that coalition, slaves 
comprising part of it.

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