AMERIKA: ‘Southern Barbarians’, Causes Of The American Civil War – By Charles Burris

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  • “…First revolution (1775-1781) was a political revolution during which Americans won independence from Great Britain; second revolution (1860-1865) was economic, enabling northern industrialists to triumph over southern agrarianism and changing the “nation’s” course profoundly”

Causes of the American Civil War – By Charles Burris

There are over sixty thousand books and articles dealing with the American Civil War. Here is an outline of what historians have perceived as the major theories and causes of the Civil War. It is composed from college lecture notes, from bibliographic essays from Jeffrey Rogers Hummel’s seminal Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, and from my own investigatory research and analysis on this subject. The analyses falls within seven broad categories, each with a specific name for this conflict:

A House Divided | Through Gamer Goggles
(Added By SM)

!. Nationalist Theory (North)

The War was a result of a “Slave Power Conspiracy” — “The War of the Rebellion” (U. S. Government’s official name — Northern view.

a. Conflict between Northern “humanity” and “Southern Barbarians.”

b. North is defender of the Union and the Constitution against unprovoked aggression by the South.

c. Historians James Ford Rhodes stated in 1913: “Of the American Civil War it may be asserted that there was a single cause, slavery”

2. States’ Right Theory (South)

The “War Between the States” or “The War for Southern Independence” or “The War of Northern Aggression”  — Southern view.

a. South sought not to destroy existing institutions, but to preserve them against Lincoln and “Black Republicans” (Republicans with abolitionist sympathies).

b. South believed that if it did not like policies of the central government, it had the right to withdraw or secede under the States’ Rights or Compact Theory of Government (outlined by Jefferson and Madison in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, and later by John C. Calhoun).

c. Defense of slavery a key issue.

d, Historians Jefferson Davis, Alexander H. Stephens, Edward A. Pollard, James Ronald and Walter Donald Kennedy, etc.

3, Irrepressible Conflict Theory

A 1930’s Nationalist school of historians — emphasis on term “Civil War.”

a. War resulted from struggle between rival nationalisms, conflicting social orders, and differing economic systems — between impersonal, complex forces.

b. Economic, social, political, and cultural differences between North and South were so great that war was inevitable; it was an “irrepressible conflict” — a tem used by historian Arthur Cole in 1934

4. Economic Theory

The “Second American Revolution” — a term used by Charles A. Beard and the Progressive school historians. Marxist historians also utilized a “class conflict” economic analysis.

a. First revolution (1775-1781) was a political revolution during which Americans won independence from Great Britain; second revolution (1860-1865) was economic, enabling northern industrialists to triumph over southern agrarianism and changing the “nation’s” course profoundly.

b. War caused by economic forces let loose by the Industrial Revolution then taking place in the North.

c. This “Revolution” was fought between “capitalists, laborers, and farmers of the North and West on the one hand and the “planting aristocracy of the South” on the other.

d. These historians believed the War was inevitable and marked the dividing line between the agricultural and industrial era in the United States.

5. Repressible Conflict Theory

A Revisionist school of historians in the 1930s (Avery O. Craven, James G. Randall, Bruce Catton, etc.)

a. War could have been avoided if men of the time had not been swayed by passion and propaganda (“fanaticism”) and instead had chosen to find a way to compromise sectional differences.

b. It was a “blundering generation” which burst into war as a result of fanatics on both sides.

c. “Emotionalism, irresponsible politicians, and propaganda brought on a war that could and should have been avoided.”

6. Neo-Abolitionist Theory

a. Reaffirmation of the earlier Nationalist school’s contention that slavery was the root cause of secession except frequent racism of the Nationalists (such as Rhodes) is absent and more compassionate concern about the status of blacks (especially post-War Reconstruction.

b. Historians Allen Nevins, James McPherson, Eric Foner, Kenneth Stampp, etc.

7. Radical Libertarian Theory

Defense of Southern Self-Determination and Abolitionism — Historians Lysander Spooner, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Joseph R. Stromberg, David Gordon, Doug Bandow, William Appleman Williams, John S. Rosenberg, and Murray N. Rothbard, etc.

Two major issues involved:

Why did the southern states want to leave the Union?

Why did the northern states refuse to let them go?

a. The War was both the culmination and repudiation of the American Revolution.

b. Marked the decisive turning point in the inexorable growth of government and coercive authority.

c. Slavery and secession were two separate issues.

d. Theory defends secession as a revolutionary right; attacks slavery as a gross violation of human rights.

e. Even if slavery explains why the southern states left the Union, it does not necessarily explain or justify the national government’s refusal to recognize their independence.

f. Slavery fails to explain why the northern states resorted to force or coercion; letting the lower South go in peace was a viable, untried anti-slavery option.

g. Most militant abolitionists believed there was no contradiction between condemning slavery and advocating secession.

h. The War was a tragic, needless conflict — The War for Coercive National Unification — similar to Bismarck’s wars to create the unified German state at this same period of time.

2 thoughts on “AMERIKA: ‘Southern Barbarians’, Causes Of The American Civil War – By Charles Burris

  1. As a Southerner, I believe slavery was wrong, but I also believe the South, with its slavery, was the economic engine the North depended on. The South produced the raw materials, like cotton and tobacco, plus corn and wheat, that the North needed for its food and industrial expansion.

    Lincoln could not afford to let the South go.

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