Lesser Known Historical Excerpts Relevant to The War for Southern Independence
(a.k.a. The American Civil War)
Eric Patterson

Below are but a few excerpts from history that reveal that the war between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America was not a battle of good versus evil, or even a true civil war. The South did not intend to take control of the United States government, but to peacefully form their own sovereign nation. The facts reveal the shallow, one-sided, sound-bite "history" and stereotypes of the Antebellum South, the Confederacy, and the War that most of us have been taught. It was, in fact, a war between two nations, the South having declared her independence from the North just as the thirteen American Colonies had done from England, and Texas did from Mexico. The right of a State to secede from the Union had been widely assumed, though untested, in both the North and South, from the time the Constitution was written and ratified, until South Carolina took that bold step on December 20, 1860.

We must look into history to find the true roots of that tragic War. Care must be taken to draw a distinction between the causes of the secession of the Southern States, and the reasons why war broke out between the North and South. History reveals the likelihood of a great conflict between the North and South – two distinct peoples and cultures. Many of the differences between the North and South coalesced in the issues of sectional political struggles for power in Congress, Federal encroachment on the rights reserved and retained by the States, differing regional economic interests, regional cultural differences, the moral dilemma of slavery, and the regional effects of federal tariffs. It all came to a head as political power shifted in Congress and then in the Presidency. The South, feeling her back was against the wall, declared herself to be an independent nation, just as the Founding Fathers had done as they broke away from England, and the Texans had done when they broke away from Mexico.

Unfortunately, the topic of slavery has served as a red herring to distract from the fundamental reasons for the conflict between the North and South that led to secession and war. Slavery, in and of itself, was not the reason for secession nor the cause of the War for Southern Independence. Though a major point of contention, slavery was but one of the differentiating factors between the agrarian economy and culture of the South, and the increasingly industrial economy and culture of the North. The citizens of the northern States were not willing to fight and die to end slavery, nor did they do so. Historically and constitutionally each State had widely and historically acknowledged sole jurisdiction within its own borders over slavery and other issues reserved by them as guaranteed by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution. While slavery was legal in the Confederate States of America for 4 years (1861-1865), slavery was legal in the United States of America for 89 years (1776-1865). In historical context, until their freedom was codified in the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, slaves were legally held to be little more than property and did not enjoy the status of citizen, whether North or South. But as economist, professor, author, and columnist Walter E. Williams wrote in his article What Led to the Civil War?, "the only good coming from the War Between the States was the abolition of slavery."

Yet, does the existence, practice and acceptance of slavery in 1776 America nullify the honor and valor associated with the spilling of Patriot blood in the struggle for independence from our mother country? Likewise, does the existence, practice and acceptance of slavery in 1830's Texas strip the honor and valor from those Texans who died at Goliad and at the Alamo as they fought for independence from Mexico? Did the words and sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence no longer apply to people in the several States of the United States once the Constitution was ratified? Are these struggles for independence any less legitimate because political unions were torn apart? Nor should the South be judged any differently for its own struggle for independence in 1861-65.

Note:  I am gradually integrating the source references into this document using the initials of the author's name to point to their work.

Last updated on August 2, 2001
Order of Merit Award