Why the Civil War Came by Boritt Gabor S.;

Why the Civil War Came by Boritt Gabor S.;

Author:Boritt, Gabor S.;
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Oxford University Press USA - OSO
Published: 1996-02-14T16:00:00+00:00


STRUGGLES FOR ideological command often take a dialectical form of charge and response. In the United States, intensified versions of white republicanism and antiblack racism generated a dialectic about slavery different than that in Latin America. At the heart of the difference lay two fears foreign to Latin America. First, slavery and the slavery issue might destroy an advanced white men’s republic. Second, emancipation might also devastate a white republic unless freed blacks were removed.

The North American dialogue about emancipation began with the foundation of U.S. republicanism, the Declaration of Independence. When the Founding Fathers asserted that all men are created equal, they immediately confronted a moral dilemma: their long unquestioned institution of slavery had become an anomaly in the republic they sought. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, author of the Declaration and a large slaveholder, believed that all men would and should rise up against so antirepublican a horror as slavery. He thus feared that slave insurrection would disrupt white republics unless white republicans freed blacks. He also worried that southern republican leaders would become irresponsible tyrants if youths learned to exercise power by lashing dissolute blacks. Thus did the U.S. slavery controversy early take its special tack: Whites would always worry not only about whether blacks ought to be freed but about how white republicanism could be preserved.

Yet if Jefferson called slavery antithetical to republicanism, he considered racism compatible with the Declaration of Independence. Whites and blacks, thought Jefferson, were innately different. Whites allegedly possessed a keener abstract intelligence; blacks a keener sexual ardency. Ex-slaves, he further worried, would be eager for revenge and ex-masters determined to repress the avengers. If slaves were freed and remained in the United States, “deep-rooted prejudices entertained by the whites” and “ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained” would “produce convulsions, which will probably never end but in the extermination of one or the other race.”7

Thus to preserve white republics, freed blacks had to be deported. The dangerous alternative was to keep blacks enslaved. Jefferson’s conviction that emancipation must be conditional on removing blacks, the first thrust in the U.S. dialectic on abolition, was rare in Latin America.8 An insistence on race removal would have ill-suited Latin American nations, where individual bargains between masters and slaves slowly led to a third class of semifree blacks and a fourth class of free blacks. The supposed necessity that U.S. slaveholders must choose between enslaving or removing blacks also misfit the situation in Delaware and Maryland, where black freedmen formed an orderly working class. But because U.S. slaveholders saw the world through the lens of a rigid non-Latin-American-style racism, the successful manumissions in Maryland and Delaware went unacknowledged, even unseen, as if the phenomenon of orderly free blacks could not happen and therefore had not happened. Instead, that more common Upper South phenomenon, the removal of slaves by sales to the Lower South, became the model for further action in the selling region. Proposals for stepping up the removal of blacks


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