Cothran defends the Confederacy

Having defended Holocaust deniers and crusaded against gay parents, I shouldn’t be surprised that Martin Cothran, lobbyist for the Kentucky affiliate of Focus on the Family and occasional shill for the Disco. ‘Tute, would defend treason. In defending the secessionist States, Cothran mostly just whales away at a straw man, offering but one real person’s views to which he objects:

the comments of Bob Sutton, chief historian for the National Park Service, who reminds us that “Slavery was the principal cause of the Civil War, period.”

That’s it. Yes, there’s much sanctimonious talk about unspecified and unnamed people who think the South – every person and every act – was uniformly evil and the North uniformly perfect, but he gives no evidence than anyone thinks that. All he has to object to substantively is that slavery caused the Civil War. And all he can offer against that is Lincoln’s oft-stated desire to preserve the Union and to maintain slavery if that was the cost of Union.

But the South disagreed, and so committed treason against this nation, seceding and waging war upon their once and future Union. And why did they do so? Let’s let them speak for themselves. Here’s the opening paragraphs of “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union“:

In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.

The declaration continues by listing the obstacles erected to slavery in the years between the Revolution and Mississippi’s treasonous act.

Georgia’s declaration of secession is equally replete with references to slavery and the obstacles to that institution posed by northern states. South Carolina begins its declaration with a rambling treatise on states’ rights, but in building a case for secession (issued before the Inaugural quoted by Cothran), refers only to slavery.

Texas, never willing to be overshadowed by other states, defends not only slavery as an institution, but specifically enlists racism to justify its secession:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.

These were the motivations laid out by the four states choosing to make a detailed accounting of grievances. All were driven principally by slavery, by the refusal of non-slave states to return slaves escaping to freedom, and by conflicts in Congress over the slave status of newly-admitted States. Only when the Confederacy formed and began casting about for foreign backing did slavery become secondary to slogans like “states rights.”

Cothran’s own Kentucky, of course, sat out the opening of the Civil War, declaring itself neutral until Confederate forces attempted to seize it. The state where Lincoln was born then petitioned for Union protection. I mention this only to note that Cothran’s defense of the traitorous Confederacy cannot be motivated simply from a sympathy for his state’s history and legacy. That legacy was never part of the Confederacy.

What other reason might motivate Cothran to defend the slave-holding states, I leave as an exercise for the reader.

Comments

  1. #1 abb3w
    December 14, 2010

    Poking around also turns up the unpublished draft from Florida, at a site with a variety of other evidence supporting the thesis of slavery being the overwhelmingly principal cause.

    Of course, there were other factors; for example, there had been decades of dispute over tarrifs and fishing rights. However, the states that bothered to state their reasons focused primarily on slavery.

  2. #2 Russell
    December 14, 2010

    Speaking in some defense of Texas, I will point out that secession was opposed by many, including leading politicians such as Sam Houston. Alas, for both the nation and the future politics of this state, the secessionists won a narrow victory.

  3. #3 Jeff Viar
    December 16, 2010

    The south did not secede because of slavery. The south seceded because the north refused to abide by the Constitution. There is a difference. Even Senator Robert Toombs of Georgia announced to the world on January 5, 1861:
    “Senators, my countrymen have demanded no new government…they have demanded no new Constitution….they have not demanded a single thing except that you shall abide by the Constitution of the United States…”
    Now, I will admit that the north committed treason because of slavery.

  4. #4 psweet
    December 16, 2010

    Jeff, I can’t figure out how you can go from the various states telling you that slavery was their reason to treason by the north. Lincoln didn’t even try to suppress the rebellion until southern troops fired on Federal property at Fort Sumter (although that may have more to do with the speed of preparation in those days), and at no point could the government be said to “provide aid and comfort to the enemy”.

    I should also point out that Lincoln’s famous quote about preserving the Union in no way represented his personal views, merely his position as President. Then next sentence in his letter to Horace Greeley (from which the quote is taken) stated that he wanted to see the institution disappear forever.

  5. #5 VaSteve
    December 16, 2010

    I keep seeing the word ‘treason’ used. Could the writer or any others here please list the names of any Confederate that was convicted of treason?

  6. #6 VaSteve
    December 16, 2010

    psweet: Lincoln did indeed want slavery to disappear forever……and the Blacks with it.We are taught that Abe was against slavery BUT they leave out the real meanings behind it.Abe was against the ‘expansion of slavery’ to the West.Nice guy? No.He wanted the West to be White Only.No Black.No Red.Abe was a member of the American Colonization Society.Though Abe lovers like to lie and say he ‘moved away’ from this,when he became President he appropriated money from Congress to send Blacks “back to Africa’.Or in this case,Liberia.Keep in mind Abe was in Illinois politics when that state voted to keep Black immigrants from moving into the state.The teachings of our “Greatest President” have been nothing more than lies.

  7. #7 YankeeBob
    December 16, 2010

    The statements linking secession directly to slavery were made by several governors of the original seven seceding “cotton” states (TX, MS, LA, SC, GA, FL, AL) as well as the CSA’s Vice President Alexander Stephens. These were drafted during the time that the remaining eight slave states (TN, VA, NC, AR, MO, KY, MD, DE) were holding secession conventions to determine if secession was in their best interests. Each of the seven cotton states sent representatives to these conventions armed with the same rhetoric found in the “slavery” statements. The purpose of this mission was to fire up the non-seceding states for secession by bringing the slavery issue to the forefront. It did’nt work. The remaining eight slave states rejected secession and chose to remain in the Union. Even Virginia, which had more slaves than any state in the country voted to stay.

    Why did the non-cotton states reject the CSA? Simply, they were not affected by the Morrill Tariff which levied a tax on cotton. The new Lincoln administration never threatened the institution of slavery where is currently existed and had no plans to end it in the future. The slavery game was politics plain and simple….scare the other states into believing that the institution was in peril and convince them that the only hope of keeping their slaves was to join the CSA.

    Of course once the war started, AR, TN, NC, and VA all joined the CSA.

    I have learned over the years not to believe most politicians’ rhetoric — especially not VPs. Recent examples are, let’s see, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, and “Lyin” Joe Biden.

    Years after the war VP Stephens admitted as much but who could believe him?

    Insofar as charges of treason, one forgets that the overriding purpose of secession is the desire for sovereignty. And that is always an honorable cause. If host government is not treating some of its people fairly and after all peaceful attempts at reconciliation have failed then they have a right and obligation to rebel. The original thirteen colonies come to mind.

    Methinks Mr. Rosenau needs to spend a little less time on evolution and a little more time on revolution.

  8. #8 abb3w
    December 17, 2010

    YankeeBob: Years after the war VP Stephens admitted as much but who could believe him?

    Citation?

    And basis for considering it an admission, rather than a post-facto rationalization?

  9. #9 YankeeBob
    December 17, 2010

    abb3w: Citation?

    And basis for considering it an admission, rather than a post-facto rationalization?

    Actually, you’re right. It was more rationalization than admission. He spent his career changing his mind and then rationalizating his decisions. Politicians rarely admit mistakes unless it’s to receive a reduced sentence.

  10. #10 Whendri
    December 22, 2010

    It is my understanding the VA seceded only after being ordered to raise an army to be used to invade the Confederacy. That does not seem motivated by slavery…?

  11. #11 Mike Crichton
    December 22, 2010

    by the refusal of non-slave states to return slaves escaping to freedom,

    So in other words, it _was_ about “States Rights”, it’s just that the South was agin’ ‘em.

  12. #12 mingfrommongo
    December 23, 2010

    “Having defended Holocaust deniers and crusaded against gay parents, I…”

    I don’t want to be too much of a grammar snob, but that really should be fixed. This is the first time I’ve read this blog (linked from Mike the Mad Biologist) and my first impression was “WTF is this doing on ScienceBlogs?”

  13. #13 Andrew Glasgow
    December 24, 2010

    Insofar as charges of treason, one forgets that the overriding purpose of secession is the desire for sovereignty. And that is always an honorable cause.

    When the purpose of ‘gaining sovereignty’ is to deny other human beings sovereignty over their own bodies and lives, you consider it to be honorable?

    I wish to secede from the U.S. in order to gain sovereignty so that I can murder my wife and marry my 10-year old daughter. Hey, sovereignty is always an honorable cause!

Current ye@r *