Part 5 of “The Secession Tradition in America,” a paper presented at the 1995 Mises Institute conference, “Secession, State, and Economy.” Click here for Part 4, “Peaceful Disunion in Europe.”
The moral grandeur of Lincoln is rooted in the myth that he made a war on the South to abolish slavery. This is, at most, a Platonic noble lie designed to legitimate the Unionist regime. Lincoln thought that slavery was immoral, but so did Robert E. Lee.
And Lee, at his own expense, freed the slaves he had inherited, through marriage, from the family of George Washington. Only around fifteen percent of southerners even owned slaves, and the great majority of these had holdings of one to six. Jefferson Davis was an enlightened slave holder who said that once the Confederacy gained its independence, it would mean the end of slavery. The Confederate Cabinet agreed to abolish slavery within five years after the cessation of hostilities in exchange for recognition by Britain and France. Southerners were not fighting to preserve slavery, but simply and solely because they were being invaded. And the North certainly did not invade to abolish slavery.
Nor should this be surprising considering the Negrophobia that prevailed everywhere in the North. It was assumed by the vast majority of Americans, North and South, that America was a white European polity, and that the Indian and African populations were not—and were never to be—full participants in that polity. For example, blacks were excluded from the western territories. Oregon became a state in 1859, and its constitution, which was passed by a vote of eight to one, declared that
No free negro, or mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall ever come, reside, or be within this state, or hold any real estate, or make any contract, or maintain any suit therein; and the legislative assembly shall provide by penal laws for the removal by public officers of all such free negroes and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion from the state, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the state, or employ or harbour them therein.
The constitution of Indiana contained the same prohibition. Lincoln’s state of Illinois prohibited the entrance of Africans unless they could post a bond of $1,000. Free Africans in northern states were severely regulated. The following regulation is from the Illinois revised statutes of 1833:………