• John S

    From Noah Smith (via Twitter): “Question for libertarians: If slavery had been abolished without a war, should slaveowners have been compensated for their ‘property’?”

    Any thoughts from anyone (w.r.t. the Confederacy)?

    • Great question. One way to look at it would be that the compensation could be in exchange for obtaining the consent of the slaveholders. Lincoln’s original proposal included compensation (and voluntary relocation of the freedmen), but the eventual consititutional amendment freed all slaves without compensation, even those of slaveholders who supported the Union rather than the confederacy. So certainly the Confederacy could have done so too (although that would have been highly unlikely imho).

    • Sergio Méndez

      That is a serious question????

    • jtlevy

      Direct tradeoff between justice and prudence there, as is often true in cases of transitional justice. As a matter of justice, the abolitionists were right: the slaveholder was a man-stealer, and far from being owed compensation *for* emancipated slaves, owed compensation *to* emancipated slaves. Compensation says that it was true that the slaves were property and that the slaveowners had a right to their labor; these are both false.

      But *if* there were some level of compensation that could have allowed slavery to end without the Civil War– a level that could be borne by the non-slaveholders and yet was high enough to placate slaveholders– then it would almost certainly have been politically responsible (in Weber’s sense) to work such a compromise out.

      There probably wasn’t. The market value of slaves was greater than that of all the industrial capital of the United States. Southern supporters of slavery, having spent the mid-19th century persuading themselves of scientific racism, Biblical racism, and the positive merit of slavery, would have been disinclined to say “let’s compromise on price, as part of a deal to be done with this.” And northern critics of slavery, having no way of knowing how expensive the Civil War was going to be, would have been disinclined to say “let’s transfer the financial wealth of the whole country to the southern slaveholding class to compensate them for not doing what they have no right to do in the first place.”

      But, yes, if the relevant political actors had been farsighted enough to reach such a deal, such a deal would have been better than the Civil War itself, much like letting Communist apparatchiks “privatize” the state into their own pockets was a price morally worth paying to end Communism mostly-bloodlessly.

      • John S

        jtlevy, thanks for your thoughtful reply–the comparison with Communism was one I hadn’t thought of before. Great comment.

      • Vangel

        “But *if* there were some level of compensation that could have allowed slavery to end without the Civil War– a level that could be borne by the non-slaveholders and yet was high enough to placate slaveholders– then it would almost certainly have been politically responsible (in Weber’s sense) to work such a compromise out.”

        The ‘Civil War’ had little to do with slavery. Lincoln was willing to pass an amendment that would prohibit the federal government from meddling with slavery and that would strengthen the Fugitive Slave Act. The war was about taxation and the desire of the North to protect industry as it transferred wealth from the South. No reasonable person who has read about the period would conclude that slavery was anything but a peripheral issue to the North. I suggest that you do a bit more reading and look at the original sources.

        • Damien S.

          Revisionist falsehoods. The Civil War had everything to do with slavery. The deep slave states seceded before Lincoln had even become President, because he was opposed to the expansion of slavery, which they saw as necessary. They said this in their own words, the secession statements and the Cornerstone address. On the other side, many Union soldiers signed up and felt they were fighting for the end of slavery, and marched to “John Brown’s Body”, even in the spring of 1861.

          • Vangel

            First of all, when they accepted the Constitution Virginia and New York made the right to withdraw from the union explicit in the ratification documents. Since those states had the right all states had the right.

            So why did Lincoln act as he did? Did he love blacks and wanted to set them free so that they can pursue the American dream? No. He did not think of blacks as equal to whites and did not see them as capable of living together with whites. They could not be allowed to vote, serve on juries, act as witnesses, etc., etc., etc. Lincoln did not permit the South to leave because he wanted to centralize power in Washington and in the Office of the President. He wanted to protect Northern industry from foreign competition Since the South lived off agricultural trade and that was a global market it had no way to pass on the extra costs that Lincoln wanted to impose. So it left.

            If you want to discuss revisionism I suggest that you look at the crap that Lincoln wrote. He made it clear that he had no problem with protecting the institution of slavery by passing an amendment that would strengthen the Fugitive Slave Act and prohibit the federal government to meddle in slavery. Many of the Union generals had slaves and did not believe that the war was about slavery. Neither did many of the abolitionists or the European or Northern press. A tyrant like Lincoln does not go to war to free a people that he thinks are unfit to be his neighbours. He goes to war to consolidate power.

            You might want to read your history again. A good place to start would be to look at the original material, not the interpretation that you are given by the Lincoln Cult.

          • Damien S.

            I have read original materials; you seem set on ignoring them.

            Mississippi’s “Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union” (Dec. 24, 1860):

            “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.”

    • martinbrock

      Compensating slave owners was preferable to war. All sorts of “property” existing today, including countless patents and all privately held Treasury securities, should be abolished in my way of thinking. If I thought that paying off the current title holders with cash would effectively end the entitlements permanently, this means to the end might be defensible.

    • Dave Lynch

      No. Self-ownership is libertarian.

    • Vangel

      Good question. As Lysander Spooner pointed out, slavery was unconstitutional so there was no way for some men to claim others as property. That would mean that slave owners would not have to be compensated. (But even many principled libertarians would take a practical view and support compensation as a way to avoid conflict and war.)

  • CT

    This is the way I see it: if black people didn’t have the right to secede (or in this case vote to secede), then the Confederate states didn’t have that right either.

    • martinbrock

      Slaves had every right to flee the slave states and to be free of anyone pursuing them in my way of thinking. The Fugitive Slave Act was very much the point, but the U.S. Constitution undeniably empowered the Federal Government to enforce it, and Lincoln was undeniably willing to enforce it, just as Obama is willing to cage countless people for selling pot today.

  • Sean II

    I too agree that we must all band together to snuff out the flames of this white-hot libertarian love affair with the CSA.

    I promise to take swift action as soon as I come across one of the guilty parties.

    I beg your patience, though since I’ve been a libertarian since 1992, and have never met a Confederate or a Neo-Confederate. I live in a former slave state, so probably this means I’m doing something wrong.

    Tips and suggestions, anyone? I don’t want to be part of the non-problem, when I can instead work to become part of the non-solution!

    • Bruno Mynthi Showers

      Well I’m sure if you haven’t encountered it, it doesn’t exist or matter. Good rule of thumb!

      • Sean II

        I dunno, the rule has served my pretty well in matters of religion.

        It’s also useful in cryptozoology, which seems to be what we’re discussing here. The Confederate Libertarian and the Chupacabra are both much talked about, and rarely seen.

    • j r

      I don’t understand your argument. Are you saying that there isn’t a significant faction within the libertarian movement with confederate sympathies or are saying that you’ve just never met one of them?

      Here’s Ron Paul talking about how the Civil War wasn’t about slavery: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEC68vTQwP8

      Here is Murray Rothbard calling the “War for Southern Independence” one of the only two just wars in American history: http://www.lewrockwell.com/1970/01/murray-n-rothbard/whats-a-just-war/

      Here is Lew Rockwell offering his revisionist take on the Civil War: http://www.lewrockwell.com/2000/05/llewellyn-h-rockwell-jr/genesis-of-the-civil-war/

      Here is the Wikipedia entry on New-Confederates that contains a section on New-Confederates and Libertarianism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Confederate

      It seems that there is a bit more documentation on confederate libertarians that on the chupacabra.

      • martinbrock

        If saying that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery makes someone a neo-Confederate, then Lincoln was a neo-Confederate.

        • j r

          Start with a tautology and end with a rhetorical question. You’ve come close to constructing the perfect troll comment.

          Sean II commented that he didn’t see much libertarian sympathy for the confederacy and I pointed some out. If you feel the need to defend that confederate sympathy, by all means go for it.

          • martinbrock

            My first statement is not a tautology, and “troll” is just another vacuous dismissal. I very plainly feel no need to defend confederate sympathy. I don’t even feel a need to defend sympathy for the American Revolution.

          • markregan

            Lincoln’s views and statements about what the Civil War was about changed over time. Here is his considered close-to-final view and statement:

            One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

          • martinbrock

            Even in this statement, Lincoln states that the North did not wage the war to end slavery.

      • j_m_h

        On hopes, but hardly expects, the other links might be better than the wikipedia cite as evidence:

        Neo-confederates and libertarianism

        Historian Daniel Feller asserts that libertarian authors Thomas DiLorenzo, Charles Adams, and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel have produced a “marriage of neo-Confederates and libertarianism.” Despite an apparent disconnect (“How can a lover of liberty defend slavery?”), Feller writes: What unites the two, aside from their hostility to the liberal academic establishment, is their mutual loathing of big government. Adams, DiLorenzo, and Hummel view the Civil War through the prism of market economics. In their view its main consequence, and even its purpose, was to create a leviathan state that used its powers to suppress the most basic personal freedom, the right to choose. The Civil War thus marks a historic retreat for liberty, not an advance. Adams and DiLorenzo dismiss the slavery issue as a mere pretext for aggrandizing central power. All three authors see federal tyranny as the war’s greatest legacy. And they all hate Abraham Lincoln[14]

        I’m just wondering if we should include both group breathing air as a common trait that supports Feller’s assertions.

        • j r

          Don’t be daft. No one claims that neo-confederates advocate for a return to slavery. The point is that in minimizing the role that slavery played for the south and elevating the CSA to some sort of small government paradise, what you’re essentially saying is that freedom and liberty and self-determination only matter for certain people, the white ones, and not others, the slaves.

          • j_m_h

            A) Don’t put words in my mouth. I am not saying anything of the sort regarding self-determination applying to some special group and not others.

            B) I’m not the daft one here. I don’t see where anyone is minimizing the role slavery played in the south, I think only about 25 percent of the southern population owned slaves and a good number of those people would not have fought a war of secession if the only dispute was slavery. And by your own admission no one appears to be defending or calling for a return of such a barbaric institution. The south had the same public choice problem as we have now where special interests dominate politics. You seems intent on the view that anything southern must be tainted by the stain of slavery or that there can never be any forgiveness of the past injustice when considering anything about the southern USA culture or political view.

          • Damien S.

            Technically only 6% of free individuals in the CSA owned slaves, and in no state was it higher than 9%. But this is misleading. Between 1/4 and 1/3 of households owned slaves. Half the people are women, after all, who tended to not own much property, and another chunk were children, ditto, or young men, also ditto.

            Confederate officers and volunteer soldiers were disproportionately from slaveowning households — I think most of the officers *were* slaveowners. The states with more slaves seceded first; the states with fewest slaves didn’t secede, or in Virginia’s case the low-slave region went and seceded from Virginia.

            39% of the Confederate population were slaves. in South Carolina, 57%.

            As for forgiving the past, the postwar South still resorted to forced black labor, especially via convict leasing, along with murder, terrorism, and the denial of civil rights, which only stopped when that tyrannical federal government stepped in again 100 years later. And the Confederate battle flag continued to be popular, like the Nazi swastika among neo-Nazis.

          • I don’t think that libertarians with Confederate sympathies are making it out to be a libertarian paradise. While the Confederates may have been inconsistent in their belief in states’ rights, they were right on this one thing, of secession. Even Murray Rothbard, in his defense of the South (http://mises.org/daily/5943/Just-War), never claimed that the South was libertarian utopia. Also, Lord Acton, in his sorrow for the south’s loss, never claimed that the South was utopia; he claimed that he saw in states’ rights a check on power, not as a defense of slavery. Also, even the libertarian Lysander Spooner (a big-time anarcho-abolitionist, mind you) attacked Lincoln and defended secession (http://archive.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo82.html). To oppose Lincoln as a tyrant is not tantamount to being a neo-Confederate (http://lionsofliberty.com/2013/07/11/exposing-lincoln-as-a-tyrant-is-not-tantamount-to-supporting-the-confederacy/).

            In fact, both are examples of the dangers of government power.

            Lew Rockwell, in his defense of the South (http://archive.lewrockwell.com/rockwell/civilwar.html), points out that Lincoln wanted to keep slavery intact. Also, as Tom Woods points out in his book 33 QUESTIONS ABOUT AMERICAN HISTORY YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO ASK, maybe the South evolved from a defense of slavery to a defense of states’ rights, as Lincoln allegedly had a change of heart (notice, I said allegedly). As Spooner said in his essay “No Treason,” “All of these cries of having ‘abolished slavery,’ of having ‘saved the country,’ of having ‘preserved the union,’ of establishing a ‘government of consent,’ and of ‘maintaining the national honor,’ are all gross, shameless, transparent cheats.”

          • Damien S.

            What did Confederates think about the secession of West Virginia?

      • Sean II

        Whaddya say we just cut the shit and get down to the main issue?

        One on side, there’s a belief that amounts to this: “The civil war doesn’t belong to history, it belongs to the present. Whatever it may have been in the messy realm of mere facts, the war exists now to carry a given message, and to tell an important morality tale – along the lines of ‘as he died to make men holy let us die to make men free’. Anyone who mentions the civil war with a purpose other than to condemn slavery is simply misusing the event. Whatever it was then, that’s what it’s for today.”

        On the other side you have something like this: “The civil war is a historical event like many others. It’s not fundamentally different from, say, the War of the Roses. It exists in its own right, with plenty of arguments for historians and buffs to geek out over. You don’t kick someone out of your house for “Neo-Yorkist Revisionism”. You don’t shun someone for taking a novel view of that war’s causes. When you moralize history, it stops being history and become something else, something more like model opera with real names.”

        I have many objections to the first view, not the least of which is that I find moral self-congratulation boring and ugly. So…to all you brave libertarians who are taking a gutsy stand against the slavery that no libertarian is or ever was for…good for you. Buy yourself a cookie.

        • j r

          This is a funny comment. You made a snarky dismissive comment asserting that neo-confederate ideology isn’t a significant factor within the liberty movement. I presented factual evidence that it is. All of a sudden, the existence of these people doesn’t matter at all. OK, I can play that game just as well.

          The problem is that in the two side that you’ve sketched out, you’ve switched things. When was the last time you saw someone stand up in front of the banner of the House of York and wax poetically about Yorkshire values? The Lost Cause is a real thing. White supremacy and white populism has a long and relevant history in this country and those who espouse it have an affinity for the stars and bars. Sorry if that irks you so, but these are just historical facts. And to some of us, not insignificant historical facts.

          • Sean II

            I never said the “lost cause” wasn’t a thing.

            It’s just not a significant libertarian thing, and it never was. Hence all this talk about it in the context of our movement is painfully silly.

            I’ll gladly bet you that the Lost Cause tracks to region, and not to ideology, and that about 3% of lost causers will turn out to be libertarians…not unlike about 3% of Americans.

            So why would anyone give a shit? I’ve offered you the reason. Some folks have a message they want to send, and “the neo-confederates are infesting libertopia” story gives them something to push off from.

            Here’s a question for you: how much human tissue must a scarecrow have before you stop calling it a straw man?

            For me the answer is: more than a little, preferably a lot. A single scrap won’t do.

          • j r

            It’s just not a significant libertarian thing,

            I just showed you three of the most prominent voices in the libertarian movement parroting the narrative of the Lost Cause. One of Rand Paul’s aides was just outed as a former (and perhaps somewhat reconstructed) prominent member of the neo-confederate movement.

            You are perfectly free to disregard factual evidence, but the world is what it is and not what you want it to be.

          • Sean II

            What you showed me was a couple libertarians expressing some light to moderate heterodoxy about a few historical issues.

            That does not amount to Lost Causery, in the sense you mean it. The fallacy you’re peddling is thus.

            1) Apologists of slavery often deny that the Civil War was really about slavery.

            2) Here’s a clip of this one guy arguing that the Civil War was not really about slavery.

            3) Therefore…

            It’s still bullshit, reeking all the worse the more stubbornly you refuse to rinse it off.

          • j r

            All I got for you are facts. I’ll leave the invective to you..

            There is a very clear white populist strain within the libertarian movement that values white Christian heterosexual norms above the freedoms and liberties of blacks and Mexicans and gays and Muslims, etc. Is it the majority of the movement? No, but it’s a significant enough number worth pointing it out.

            If the circumstances of your birth are such that someone standing in front of a confederate flag downplaying the historical importance of slavery and white supremacy are irrelevant to you, then congratulations. I hold you no ill will. For some of us, however, this stuff has real importance.

          • Sean II

            Interesting fallback position there. Now it’s not just people who argue about the Civil War. Now it’s anyone who “values white Christian heterosexual norms [I omit the last part of that sentence, on the grounds that it was designed to make you not wrong by definition]”.

            But again you have the same problem. That category still includes WAY more Democrats and Republicans than it does people of our kind, in absolute terms and by shares of population. “Significant”, as you use it above, means we should have MORE than them. We don’t.

            Finally, that “circumstances of your birth” line was beneath you. You should be embarrassed about that.

          • j r

            There is no fallback position and there is absolutely no embarrassment. Everything I’ve said on this has been consistent from the beginning. You can value any norms you want with no beef from me. My issue is with the political ramifications of white populism: bad immigration policy, bad foreign policy, bad social, bad fiscal policy, etc.

            And I don’t have any problems, because I don’t care about comparisons. Shitty Democrat and Republican ideas don’t excuse shitty libertarian ideas. There are enough people calling themselves libertarians who have roughly the policy positions outlined in this Rothbard piece: http://archive.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/ir/Ch5.html.

            Most of those policy positions are deeply illiberal and worthy of criticism. Apparently criticizing libertarians is enough to earn your scorn. Good thing I’ve never been one of those purity test libertarians.

          • Sean II

            Here’s your problem.

            You claim to worry about these things: “bad immigration policy, bad foreign policy, bad social, bad fiscal policy, etc.”

            These things are produced by everyone but libertarians.

            Why are you worried about libertarians? To the extent that people are libertarian, they are not producing the bad policies you worry about. To the extent that they are producing those bad policies, they are not libertarians. This is anyone’s issue but ours.

            For example, the social policy of libertarians is “we don’t have a social policy”.

            How, then, can this thing you call white populism lead us to have a bad social policy?

          • j_m_h

            Sean II, I think we’ve reached Scottland.

          • Damien S.

            I note the comments at http://www.libertarianism.org/blog/rand-paul-confederacy-liberty had a distressing amount of Confederate apologists.

          • Vangel

            Stop digging. You tried to imply that Ron Paul was in favour of slavery in one posting and talk about valuing “white Christian heterosexual norms above the freedoms and liberties of blacks and Mexicans and gays and Muslims, etc.,” on another. I would argue that Ron Paul has been the most consistent voice in this debate. He has not talked about group rights or argued that we need to favour one side over another. He has simply stated that everyone should be seen as an individual and that government needs to stop meddling in both the social and economic spheres.

            Isn’t that what libertarians are supposed to stand for? People should be free and the only role that government might have is to protect individuals from the aggression of others.

          • j_m_h

            JR, what exactly is a neo-confederate sans slavery? What is a libertarian?

      • Dave Lynch

        There is a difference between criticism of the North’s justifications for War and endorsement of slavery.

        It is entirely possible to be opposed to slavery, think Lincoln was a fascist, think succession was legitimate, and be libertarain, without being a CSA supporter or member of the KKK

        Further libertarians are notorious for taking purely logical positions regardless of the emotional content.

        Once even the ACLU fought to allow Nazis to march in skokie.

        Now principled defense of the rights of the hateful is viewed as repugnant.

        Few seem to grasp that the rights assured the repugnant are the only rights any of us can be certain of .

      • Vangel

        In none of your examples do we see any support for slavery by any libertarian. As I wrote above, the evidence shows that the war was not about slavery. It was about the power to tax and the rights of states to leave the Union that they created.

        • Damien S.


          In the words of South Carolina, it was about the failure of the free states to return runaway slaves to them.

          “We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States.
          Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign
          the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.”

          South Caroline wouldn’t have been talking about compacts if it weren’t for slavery. The other secession statement say the same thing: they’re seceding to preserve slavery.

          • Vangel

            This is wrong. The driving force was economics. The South could not survive economically if it was forced to pay high tariffs on everything it bought from the North while it had no way to increase its own prices for the exports that it depended on. You think of the Southerners as some simpletons who could not figure that out and were only concerned about slavery.

            Now it is easy for anyone on your side to pick out a quote here and there to argue that the war was all about slavery; after all while Jefferson Davis said that the South did not wish to extend slavery, his VP, Alexander Stephens was making Lincolnian speeches talking about how unfit blacks were to live together with whites and could never be equal to whites. (In case you have forgotten your history, that is essentially what Lincoln said in his debates with Douglass.) But for your case to be made you would have to explain why Lincoln made very clear that the war was only about holding the union together, why many of the people who fought on the Northern side had slaves and why Lincoln never bothered to free the slaves in states under Union control.

            And let me note here that it was not the South that invaded the North but the other way around. It was Lincoln who raised an army to bring back the Southern States into the Union.

          • Damien S.

            The Confederacy fired first, attacking Fort Sumter.

            The Confederacy said they were seceding in defence of slavery. It’s not quote picking, they said it over and over again, in their justifications for seceding. Their Constitution differs from the US Constitution largely in protecting the right to own slaves. They talked about slavery way, way more than they did about tariffs.

            I’ve never heard that of Davis before. The expansion of slavery was a constant theme in Southern politics, from motivating the Mexican-American War to Confederate designs on annexing Cuba. And the position of Lincoln Republicans was that the federal government didn’t have the power to abolish slavery, only to prohibit its expansion in territories and new states.

            “Lincoln never bothered to free the slaves in states under Union control”

            Hey, there’s this little thing called the Constitution you might have heard of. The President did not have the power to free slaves in Union territory.

          • Vangel

            First, Fort Sumter was occupied by a foreign army that did not wish to leave. It was taken back by the people who wanted foreign powers to leave their country. For that the foreign country staged an invasion that led to war. Since the South was not disputing the North’s right to control northern states it could not be called a civil war. The conflict was a war of aggression.

            Second, it is not my fault that you do not know as much of your history as you should. As I wrote, if you look at the issues at the time, they were mainly economic. Northern industry was protected by high tariffs. That meant that Southerners had to pay much higher prices for the things that they purchased. Since Southern earnings mainly came from exports and they operated in open and competitive markets there was no way to offset higher prices for goods that had to be purchased by increasing prices for the commodities that were being sold. The tariffs affected the entire Southern economy, not just slave holding planation owners. Had you been familiar with the issues of the day and looked at the entire literature you would know this.

            Third, it was very easy for Lincoln to argue that slavery was unconstitutional, a position that was becoming very popular after the publication of Lysander Spooner’s pamphlet, The Unconstitutionality of Slavery.


            That pamphlet caused the split between Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison thought the Constitution evil while Douglass argued that Spooner’s argument was correct.

            You also gloss over the fact that Lincoln made it clear that he believed that whites were superior to blacks and wanted to send blacks back to Africa. It was certainly possible for him to end the international slave trade, which was run out of New York and the New England states. But he never did that. As for the Constitution, it was clear that Lincoln had no use for it except when it suited his purposes. He sent many of the people who opposed him to jail without charge. He closed down newspapers and threw their editors in jail. He jailed Clement Laird Vallandigham, a Congressman from Ohio and had him deported to the South, where he was held as a prisoner of war. He also jailed thousands of others and closed hundreds of legitimate businesses. So please spare us the “he really, really wanted to free the slaves but couldn’t because he respected the Constitution too much.” History shows us that is a false argument.

            You might try getting a better education. If you wish, I would be happy to recommend a number of books on the topic.

          • Damien S.

            I’ve quoted and directed you to primary sources, the statements of the seceding states themselves. They give pride of place to slavery, not tariffs. I see you’re intellectually dishonest and not worth bortheing with again.

          • Vangel

            And I have shown you that Lincoln, who was the one who invaded the South, clearly stated that the war was not about slavery. Fort Sumpter was not in the North. It was in a state which clearly referenced the Declaration and the Treaty of Paris to leave the Union. Other states had slavery but chose not to secede. Some, like Virginia, never stated why they chose the leave the Union, because it did not have to give any reason given the fact that its ratification document gave it the right to leave.

            For the war to have been about slavery or been a civil war the South would have to have invaded the North. But it didn’t. It was the other way around.

            Why not be intellectually honest and admit that your knowledge is deficient? If you want references here are a few books on the matter.

            33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask

            Lincoln Uncensored

            Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream

            The Politically Incorrect Guide To American History

            Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe

            When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession

            Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery

            Note that the claims in the books are supported by hundreds of references that quote the facts as they are rather than some apologists interpretation of events.

          • Jeanne Tucker

            The Civil War was about the freedom to own slaves and have those property rights respected in law for the South and about secession and the Union for the North. As the South instigated the war by seceding for reasons that were unacceptable to the Union, then the war was indeed, about slavery.

          • Vangel

            Lincoln and Grant both said that the war was not about slavery. Lincoln even offered the South an amendment that would strengthen the Fugitive Slave Act and would ensure that the federal government could never interfere with slavery. So no, it was not about slavery. It was about what wars usually are, power. Lincoln wanted to preserve the Union and his power. The southern states wanted power to determine their own destiny.

  • RaleighDevil

    The Conspirators have accused the secessionists of engaging in selective federalism with regard to fugitive slaves. I will just quote Wikipedia to them: When Congress created “An Act respecting fugitives from justice, and
    persons escaping from the service of their masters”, or more commonly
    known as the Fugitive Slave Act, they were responding to slave owners’
    need to protect their property rights, as written into the 1787
    Constitution. Article IV of the Constitution required the federal
    government to go after runaway slaves.[10]
    The 1793 Fugitive Slave Act was the mechanism by which the government
    did that, and it was only at this point the government could pursue
    runaway slaves in any state or territory, and ensure slave owners of
    their property rights.[11]

  • Sean II

    A separate point…

    There can be little doubt that the Civil War was substantially (though only an idiot would say entirely) about slavery for the South.

    But any libertarian who thinks the war was about slavery for the North has a serious internal contradiction on his hands.

    Why? Because according to our theories, governments don’t do that trick. Governments don’t sacrifice their own interests just to do something nice, like free a bunch of people they never cared much about before, and didn’t care much about after.

    To wit, any libertarian who has a theory of the Civil War which fails to explain Northern war aims in unromantic terms, in terms consistent with a public choice view of the state, etc…must be kidding himself somewhere along the way.

    To be consistent with the way we usually see the world, this story must have two bad guys or more.

    • martinbrock

      Believing that the war was all about slavery for the North is believing that Northern politicians lied about why they waged the war at the time and that only revisionist historians apologizing for the war have the story right. While I have no trouble believing that politicians lie pathologically, in this case, I’m more inclined to believe Lincoln’s inaugural address as an account of the North’s motivation for waging the war.

      But for the sort of “libertarian” who believes that liberty is a benefit that the most central authority provides to its subjects by restraining the vicious impulses of less central authorities, the conventional story makes perfect sense.

    • j_m_h

      I don’t even think you can make the claim the was was “substantially…about slavery for the south” without defining “the south” as a small minority special interest group.

      From https://civilwargazette.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/prevalency-of-slavery-in-the-south-in-1860/:
      Most Americans, no doubt, imagine the prewar South as a
      region so thickly dotted with immense plantations on which most of the
      black and white populations worked and lived. But, on the contrary,
      while slaves made up 40% of the total population of the South, only 25 percent of free families, most of them white, owned any slaves at all, and fully one-half of this minority (12.5%) held fewer than five slaves. Only an owner of twenty or more slaves, and of substantial land, could qualify as a planter, and fewer than 10 percent of slave-holding families qualified. The plantation elite of the antebellum South made up less than 3 percent of the free population in the region and less than 2 percent of the total free and slave populations combined.
      (Bitter Fruits of Bondage: The demise of slavery and the collapse of the Confederacy, 1861-1865. Armisted L. Robinson. Univ of Virgina Press, 2005.)

      I forget where I read it but I believe that nearly half of the white population in the southern states had indicated they would not fight a war with the north if the only reason was preservation of slavery.

      • Damien S.

        Not all Southern states seceded.

        Lots of Southerners went and joined Union armies. Probably from that half of the population.

        But the ones who joined the Confederate army? Lots of slave-interest there. You also ignore the aspirational element: people not from slaveowning households might hope to become such.

        Of course, the Confederacy was also first to pass a conscription law. Freedom!

        • j_m_h

          The vast majority did, some only after the North mobilized a larger military force to enforce the union.

          What those who want to make the war all about slavery miss is the, at lest, 30 years of political and economic history of the divergence between the northern and southern states regarding a number of factors. Yes, slavery is inextricably tied up with other issues. Unless one is going to make the case that the federal tariff policies were designed to induce the southern slave owners and the states to end slavery you’re not going to show a war was not coming even in the absence of slavery.

          I suppose you want to down play the segregation in the northern army as well as how the northern commanders used the black troops and how warmly welcomed the freed slaves were in the north after the war.

          You might also talk a bit about the factions in the north who were against the war to both enforce the continuation of the union or the ending of slavery in the south.

          I have not been able to find any statistics on the number of southerners who fought on the union side but agree some did and I suspect few if any were in favor of slavery. I suspect more that opposed slavery (and my understanding is that a majority of free white men in the south did oppose slavery) could still be found fighting on the side of secession.

          • Damien S.

            “my understanding is that a majority of free white men in the south did oppose slavery”

            What is that understanding based on? Probably at least 1/4 of free white men *owned* slaves. Lots of the rest would have wanted to.

          • j_m_h

            Something I recently read while looking around. I don’t have a cite but the article was definite in it’s statement and given only about 25 percent of the households, as you noted in another post (correctly correcting my misstatement of 25% of the population or people), were slave owners and most small time owners.

            The section I got the claim from was making the same point I made previously: with regard to slavery and laws the south had a big public choice problem where the driving force behind these laws were a special interest. The laws were not representative of a majority.

            We can and should make a distinction between pro slavery and racists — you had plenty of racism (perhaps even more than in the south) in the north but clearly limited support for any slavery. (Limited to those supporting the right of the southern states to remain slave states for the most part)

          • Damien S.

            There’s a huge leap from “not owning slaves” to “opposing slavery”. Not being rich enough to afford a slave isn’t the same as opposing slavery. I’m sure there were many whites who did oppose slavery, and most of them in the northern Southern states, but “most” is a very strong claim that would need justification.

            Note slaves were often rented out, so even those without slaves could participate in the system part-time, or those with few slaves participate more intensely for a while.

          • j_m_h

            That’s not the basis of the claim. The claim was the result of the author’s research not some inference. If you’re concerned go look some shit up; I’m just telling you I didn’t just make the numbers up myself.

            Yes and when they were rented out the slave, by law, got paid. That was how a number of slaves freed themselves so renting a slave provides no information on the view of the person renting the labor services.

          • Damien S.

            “the slave, by law, got paid”

            That’s an extraordinary claim given the nature of American slavery, where slaves had no right to property; we’re not talking Rome or Athens. It’s contradicted by this source: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/experience/living/history.html

            “Money earned from hiring out went into the owners’
            pockets, but oftentimes the laborer got to keep some himself. In this way, a slave might save enough not only to live on his own, but also to buy his freedom.”

            So it might happen, with skilled urban slaves, but wasn’t required. Far less likely, I’d think with rural ones.

          • j_m_h

            Your PBS cite is correct but doesn’t get you the details. I spent a little time trying to find some references but am not going to make it a research project just for you. About 10 or so years back I was interested in the topic and was able to find online copies of the actual laws for a number of the states. Other references I found suggested that the laws were universal for the south.

            Even some of the search hits I just looked at makes it clear that it wasn’t just an urban thing.

    • Vangel

      “There can be little doubt that the Civil War was substantially (though only an idiot would say entirely) about slavery for the South.”

      I disagree. While I am not an American and have not taken the same history courses that you must have sat through I believe that the SC convention made it very clear that it wanted to be a separate nation as it was entitled to by the Declaration and the Treaty of Paris. It left and a lot of other states followed. There was no civil war because the South had no interest in invading or taking over the North. And if you look at the preamble of the Confederate Constitution you will find that its wording makes clear that the South believed that the federal government no longer recognized the rights of the states. The Confederate Constitution abolished the international slave trade, which was primarily operated by Northerners. It also did not permit tariffs that would benefit any particular industry. This last part should be very clear to any rational thinker. The South believed that the tariffs enacted by Congress were designed to benefit the North while they hurt the South.


    I believe a great deal of the embarrassing stupidity coming out of the mouths of certain libertarians in defense of Southern secession is the result of a basic flaw in logic. For an act “x” to be just, it need not be the case that agent “A” have pure motives for “x,” especially when “x” is a war or other historical event. For instance, if “B” is leaving the apartment he shares with “A,” taking his kidnap victim along, and “A” insists on freeing the victim solely to spite “B,” and as a consequence the victim goes free, “A” has done something good, even if for the wrong reason. It might make sense to say that Lincoln was a bad guy, but still defend the war as just as a matter of history.

    • Fallon

      So Hong Kong or Switzerland, being more just states than the USA, have a logical right to nuke Washington DC and replace it with a more freedom oriented model of government? This change being enforced by a police state for a period of tutelage too. Or is this equation’s validity dependent on a specific constitutional interpretation that metaphysically binds the entities?


        Say what?

    • j_m_h

      Mark, the fact that unintentionally good things come from bad actions do not make the actions just — the war may have been just (questionable) but not on any of the ground I’ve heard argued.

      The closest I can get to the war being just is the fact that The Articles of Confederation specifically states that the union is inviable and no exit clause exists. Whether or not that trumps living under unjust laws or not is open to discussion (though would appear to then refute the basis for our rejecting british rule).


        I am suggesting that there may be a useful way to evaluate the justice of this war without trying to sort out the motives of all involved, which were surely a mixed bag. The abolitionists supported the Northern cause for the right reason, while others did not. But, I think all understood that a Northern victory would mean the end of slavery. A victorious North was not going to tell the South “you good ole boys go back home and have some fun with your slaves.”

        Perhaps the test is how a well-informed, impartial, well-intentioned observer would have seen things at the time. Would such a person have supported the North–I think so.

        • j_m_h

          How can you say it was a certainty that a win for the north would end slavery given Lincolns agreement to ensure that the existing slave states would enjoy Constitutional protection?

          If the south had backed down or the northern victory was rapid I don’t think there’s any reason to think the slave states would have immediately ceased being slave states. There was an active northern coalition the allow the southern states to leave and remain slave states. There’s clearly a legal question about the constitutionality of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — would that have floated in 1859? How about 1849? I think not. It could be done during the war when then north need more soldiers and needed to maintain a political coalition to pursue the war.

          I agree, you’re on very safe grounds if you want to claim that the ending of slavery was a victory or a more moral society, for a more free society, for a more libertarian society on the narrow count of slavery. The war itself and what lead up to the war has not moral ground to stand on.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Well, sadly, you have nothing interesting to say about my philosophical approach to evaluating the justice of the Northern cause, and simply quarrel with my underlying assumption that a well-informed observer would have understood that Northern victory would mean the end of slavery. I don’t know how exactly one “proves” this, so I’m not going to waste a lot of time here, other than to say that the South clearly understood it, as immediately upon Lincohn’s election they initiated secession and violence. It’s hard to explain this action for any other reason.

          • j_m_h

            If it wasn’t clear from my first comment or my last paragraph your approach is flawed and will not shed light on “the justice of the Northern cause” since you attribute a) a common cause to the North (there was not a common cause of stopping slavery for the north) and b) the approach of latching on to an unintended consequence of the war to justify “the Northern cause” is a logical error.

            If you find that critique uninteresting so be it.

          • Damien S.

            A quick Northern victory might not have ended slavery right away, that’s hard to say. But it would certainly have ended slavery eventually. The North wasn’t uninterested, after all: it *had* banned slavery in every state but Delaware, and actively opposed the further expansion of slavery. Whatever the levels of racism, abolitionism was a Cause for many, one they would move for (Kansas) and fight for (Kansas, John Brown, the war itself).

            What led up to the war was the Republican Party’s opposition to the expansion of slavery. That has no moral ground to stand on?

          • j_m_h

            That’s an over simplified statement. The problem with the tariff policies pushed by northern interests had nothing to do with slavery or not slavery. Those policies have been shown to have been wealth transfers from the south to the north. It’s also interesting that monied industrial interests in the north were somewhat cool on waging a war to keep the south in the union until the southern low tariff policies became better known. Once it was clear that a large and highly difficult to police boarder with the southern states might exist it became clear that the imports would simply bypass the northern ports and then find their way into the northern markets helping to depress prices — which the tariffs were to support.

            A key reason the state choice of free or slave was important to the south was the view that other slave states would tend to have similar economies and so help maintain the political balance at federal level in policy formation. It’s not clear that the core southern slave states would have cared about other states not entering the union as slave states if they thought these other states would support similar federal economic policies as they did.

            This whole idea of making the civil war about nothing but slavery — taking a rather complex situation driven my many factors and claiming one is all that mattered — has nothing really to so with history or historical facts. It’s as Sean II says — a current issue about what messages and meaning some want to everyone take from the historical event.

  • Fallon

    The selection of Barnett scores a point for my original thesis: the defense of Lincoln and the North is a cover for the current state violence of liberaltarians and other sympathetic hybrids. Barnett is pretty much pro Iraq and anti-terror wars. Does Barnett apply the same apologetics for current war as he does to Lincoln’s time?