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'Where was the Lord?': Slave testimonies (montgomeryadvertiser.com)
108 points by diodorus 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 108 comments

That was an incredibly powerful set of personal testimony. I just don't get exposed to that visceral reminder of what slavery was very much. And still so much of the south is in denial about it. Setting up gerrymandered districts in Virgina, making it harder for people to vote in ways that clearly make it harder for blacks to vote. So much of that is still here. I'm from a southern state, it's not exactly unknown to me that this has been the way it was for a lot of people. Now that I live in my west coast tech utopia I don't see people who seem to live in that world (sarcastically I kind of say this, look at all the homeless but there is less visible racism, so it must be more hidden). This should be required reading in schools. My own history classes told me a lot about how horrible slavery was, but wow, nothing like this.

I'm amazed they published that in the newspaper. Look through the editorials in it, search for jefferson davis and read what people say about changing school names. That was a freaking brave editorial decision. - https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/education/20...

> I'm amazed they published that in the newspaper. (...) That was a freaking brave editorial decision.

As someone not from the US: what would the controversy here be? (i.e. what reason would someone opposed to publishing this name?)

The Netherlands has done pretty awful things in Indonesia after WW2, and while that is unfortunately hardly mentioned in high school, I can't imagine it being controversial for a Dutch newspaper to publish testimonials of it.

Imagine that a large number of people in the Netherlands thought that what the Netherlands did in Indonesia were right and justified, and that the Netherlands should still have colonies and Indonesians should be ruled from the Netherlands to this day. Imagine these people still fly flags celebrating Netherlands rule of Indonesia and name their schools after the officers responsible for committing those atrocities in Indonesia, which they deny actually happened.

How often do people actually approve of slavery, or deny that it happened? I mean, I know there are some - I've seen articles as well. But surely those are only the excesses of a fringe movement, not something the newspapers should actively take into account when deciding what to publish?

Racial supremacy is what people sympathize with, not slavery per se. For example, the assumption that a white person's word is inherently more valuable than a black person's word left some particularly nasty stains on America's history - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmett_Till

They deny the excesses of slavery, or excuse them, and argue that whites are inherently superior and should rule over other races as subjects. There are an awful lot of people in the south that at a minimum are sympathetic to those views.

"An awful lot" as in: enough to pressure newspapers into not publishing accounts of it? That's... Wow.

To us, 2 centuries after slavery went extinct in the civilized world, the idea seems incredibly cruel, although it was practiced in various forms throughout human history in most civilizations with little regard to its victims.

We must ask ourselves, are there any other malevolent deeds inflicted humans to other humans or living creatures that we overlook? The most obvious answer to this is the treatment of animals in the meat and dairy industries. Those creatures can't and will never be able to voice their suffering. It seems to me that in 2 centuries from now, people will talk about this issue with the same contempt we talk about slavery today.

> To us, 2 centuries after slavery went extinct in the civilized world, the idea seems incredibly cruel, although it was practiced in various forms throughout human history in most civilizations with little regard to its victims.

There are more chattel slaves alive today than there were during the 18 or 19th century, by a wide margin so, no, it is not extinct. Unless, of course, you don't consider much of the human world civilized, which is perhaps a more loaded can of worms than animal rights.

I exploit poor and weak for monetary gain and I think it is completely normal.

2 centuries? You might want to check your math on that. And also language. Illegal is not the same as extinct. So if you're looking for things that have been overlooked, you might start right here.

I'm not sure I understand your comment. Slavery is illegal, that means that we as a society reject and punish those who practice it.

The question of whether it will ever disappear is a question of enforcement/policy and not of moral values.

This should be required reading in American schools.

>never seed her no more in this life

I am moved by the stories. The accounts are so raw and visceral. Is there a website where there are audio recordings of the narrations?

Maybe not these narrations, but there is this: https://www.loc.gov/collections/voices-remembering-slavery/a...

Let me get this straight, the majority of the discussion on this painful look into a horrible institution is about the financial system, and whether it technically constitutes Capitalism?

These were real people, with names and faces just like you and I, not some abstract argument about personal liberty or economic systems.

It seems really disrespectful to me to reduce people to that. Like people here are making them a kind of chattel again, fodder for arguments, instead of seeing their humanity.

Anyway, for those that care, for white people who can see that the legacy of this horror is still with us, built into our institutions: here is a real quick read on dismantling racism in an organization.


Any time I hear another impassioned plea about some southerner's pride in displaying the Confederate flag as a mark of their "cultural heritage", I roll my eyes. Sure, I'll recognize your freedom of speech as to the display, but you'll never convince me that the display is anything but bald racism. The closest thing I've ever heard to a rationale from a defender is basically "because reasons". Even "states' rights" requires a clear motivation when you're talking about one small part of a federation, and still boils down to racism if you take it to its logical conclusion. As a rebuttal, you need only look at quotes from prominent Confederates to know the truth; that you're going out of your way to defend the acts of some very evil men. Reading these stories made my stomach churn. I'm done with [your] moral equivalencies.

The questionability of national pride aside, if Confederate flag brandishing Southerners truly only cared about national pride they'd do what Germans do: not fly the damn flag.

It's okay to have a problematic history. You don't have to be proud of everything your ancestors or their peers did. The Confederacy was a lose coalition of states that were defending their right to own slaves. If you were born in the South that doesn't mean you have to make up excuses for this or be sorry about it -- those things happened before you were born. But if you celebrate it, you celebrate slavery.

There are a lot of nuances you could argue about (e.g. how much slave owners should have been subsidised to cushion the economic impact of abolishment or whether the US should have allowed states to secede peacefully) but abolishment was the right thing to do and the states that took up arms to stop it were on the wrong side of history.

You don't see Germans find it socially acceptable to celebrate the accomplishments of 1930s Germany much. It shouldn't be socially acceptable to celebrate the Confederacy either. Especially if they have ancestors who fought for Germany in WW2.

Oh and the most absurd part of that excuse is that the flag in question was only in use for a very short time and specifically in the context of the war. This is like saying the flag of the Nazi Germany Kriegsmarine isn't about anything the Nazis did.

Unfortunately, the website just redirects me to https://eu.montgomeryadvertiser.com/ which has got to be the least impressive internationalisation website I've ever seen?

Anyone post a text-dump?

Yes (I'm not the requester but had the same issue), thank you.

Slavery is undoubtably beneficial to Capitalism (ex: sea trade via the triangular trade routes), and the almighty dollar frequently overrides morality for the worse.

The plantation owners in the South were more akin to medieval landowners than capitalists. An economy based on land ownership and inefficient agriculture doesn’t have much in common with capitalism - where the interchange of money and its investment and use are the drivers of wealth creation. The industrialised and capitalistic North, which rejected slavery, prospered far more than, and ultimately defeated, the South.

> The industrialised and capitalistic North, which rejected slavery

How do you think Boston became so wealthy? Slave mortgages and financing slave trips to Africa. Whaling didn’t take off until the latter declined, but the slave mortgages continued through the war.

Yes, slavery makes slave owner more rich. But overall yankees were the ones doing competitive capitalism. People having their own small businesses that competes and treating your own work as something you sell.

South society was more about everyone having his place and being supposed to stay there. Social classes, entrenched large plantations that work slaves instead of hiring people. Slaves dont competed in market by selling their work and whites would sell slaves work out of pride.

Large chunk of economy was in slave ownership, it made people rich. But, it was not as much capitalism the way north was as a result.

Slaves were (if im not mistaken) the first asset that was securitized in the new world. People across Europe who never touched a slave got rich from the trade.

"First, American planters organized new banks, usually in new states like Mississippi and Louisiana. Drawing up lists of slaves for collateral, the planters then mortgaged them to the banks they had created, enabling themselves to buy additional slaves to expand cotton production. To provide capital for those loans, the banks sold bonds to investors from around the globe — London, New York, Amsterdam, Paris. The bond buyers, many of whom lived in countries where slavery was illegal, didn’t own individual slaves — just bonds backed by their value. Planters’ mortgage payments paid the interest and the principle on these bond payments. Enslaved human beings had been, in modern financial lingo, “securitized."

"Here is how the American slave-breeding industry worked, according to the Sublettes: Some states (most importantly Virginia) produced slaves as their main domestic crop. The price of slaves was anchored by industry in other states that consumed slaves in the production of rice and sugar, and constant territorial expansion. As long as the slave power continued to grow, breeders could literally bank on future demand and increasing prices. That made slaves not just a commodity, but the closest thing to money that white breeders had. It’s hard to quantify just how valuable people were as commodities, but the Sublettes try to convey it: By a conservative estimate, in 1860 the total value of American slaves was $4 billion, far more than the gold and silver then circulating nationally ($228.3 million, “most of it in the North,” the authors add), total currency ($435.4 million), and even the value of the South’s total farmland ($1.92 billion). Slaves were, to slavers, worth more than everything else they could imagine combined."


The Californian gold rush was a big factor; it created a huge stimulus and liquidity injection, recapitalising US industry, infrastructure and fedral government. Ironically this empowered the north to contend with the south, freeing (in name and partially) the slaves of the south but condeming the peoples of the west to genocide.

Don't forget all the opium money that was being poured into the North, killing Chinese people with overdoses was very profitable.

I will respond to this only because I've heard it before. That view is impossible to justify because

a. Slavery is an evil, repulsive act, and if it's linked to capitalism, then that will (for good reason) lead to opposition to capitalism.

b. While it was economically good for some, it was bad for others, and you can't write down a sensible economic model in which ownership of others leads to an efficient outcome.

That's all I'm going to say about this crazy claim in an attempt to prevent its misuse.

I'm not saying the person you are responding to is right, but your counter seems flawed. Owning slaves was legal and allowed some people to gather wealth, even at the expense of other people. As a result, there were people who got rich doing exactly that.

Why isn't that part of capitalism? Yes, it taints it, but really what it says to me is that unfettered capitalism will lead to "evil", repulsive acts, and that is exactly why, as problematic as it is, government must set legal boundaries around unacceptable behavior when such behaviors are discovered.

To make a modern analogy, it is legal for coal companies to "top" mountains, and to strip mine, and to release gigatons of CO2, and with it biologically significant amounts of mercury, massive amounts of particulates, large waste byproducts of coal ash and more. It is legal and profitable, so there are many companies doing it, despite the clear external costs to environment and the health of the population. Is this not part of capitalism?

What is capitalism? Is capitalism any system that uses money? Doesn't that make most "socialist" countries capitalist?

To me, capitalism is about guaranteeing people's property rights. Some forms of indentured servitude might be considered a type of capitalism, but certainly not 19th-century American slavery, in which slaves had almost no rights (and the situation got worse as time progressed). In the very early days, slaves could even work for pay and eventually buy their freedom, but as the years went on, they were banned from this and later from owning property altogether.

Furthermore, history clearly shows that slave codes were continually tightened not because it was believed to be economically viable but because the population of the South was afraid of black people. Already in the eighteenth century it was made illegal for a slaveowner to free his slaves by fiat. It required approval from the government. How is that capitalist?


>A 1723 law stated that slaves may not "be set free upon any pretence whatsoever, except for some meritorious services to be adjudged and allowed by the governor and council."

This isn't some perverse overinterpretation of slaveowners' property rights. It's about fear, plain and simple. White people in the antebellum South did not want black people to be part of society. Capitalism can't explain that. There was a brief respite after some slaves fought for the patriots in the war and manumission was reinstated, but then:

>However, as population of free Negroes increased, the state passed laws forbidding them from moving into the state (1778)[34] and requiring newly-freed slaves to leave within one year unless they had special permission (1806).[35]

This was not just about money. Money doesn't explain "freed slaves must leave".

Of course it wasn't just about money, as fear of reprisal was obviously a concern.

But the entire reason slavery existed wasn't fear of black people -- it was to use them to generate wealth, and not just for the slave owners; slavery propped up the economy of southern states. If the slaves had vanished overnight via a magic trick, it would have affect the economy of country as a whole, and cratered it in the south.

You are dismissing the primary reason for the perpetuation of US slavery by repeatedly pointing to one factor that was a byproduct of slavery.

You ignored my main point. What is capitalism?

If all of the slave owners freed their slaves voluntarily, either they are insane (i.e. society is doomed, everyone is crazy) or slavery is completely unnecessary to the economy. Anti-manumission laws cannot be explained by any rational economic motive.

This seems like the same "solution aversion"[1] argument that lots of conservatives have when it comes to rejecting the possibility of "global warming" / "climate change".

I would argue it's also wrong, especially in the modern USA flavor of capitalism after the Friedman Doctrine[2] said that shareholders are actually immoral for not maximizing profits despite any other social responsibility. This is a "Paperclip Maximizer"[3] utility function where companies eventually figure out how to use legal, financial, and psychological/addictive tools to overwhelm the defenses of all consumers in a society. It's effectively a flavor of social darwinism.

Interestingly, capitalism might be kept in check given a strong enough government (eg. regulations designed and updated smartly to keep corporations from abusing the weakest consumers), but ours has largely been captured[4] by corporate interests.

[1] https://bppblog.com/2018/03/27/solution-aversion/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedman_doctrine

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_convergence#Paper...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture

>>Interestingly, capitalism might be kept in check given a strong enough government (eg. regulations designed and updated smartly to keep corporations from abusing the weakest consumers)

The regulatory approach is a one-size-fits-all over-simplification of the vast diversity of interactions that take place in an economy consisting of millions of people. If there is an allegation that some party is exploiting another, it has to be provable in a court of law in order to have a reliable indication that the allegation is true.

Trying to generalize entire classes of interactions as exploitive and thus worthy of being prohibited is not a good way to organize a complex society. It inhibits opportunity and allows special interests to exploit the population at large through anti-competitive behavior far more than it creates opportunity and reduces exploitation.

A well-functioning society needs an active role for the government but that role should be in providing public goods, like objective information resources that consumers can resort to, not in limiting consumers' choices to protect them from their own bad judgment.

Agreed. In fact the poor and downtrodden suffer more under regulation because the government often removes alternative recourse from them in the name of justice.

As another commenter pointed out, slavery was a modern version of feudalism, not so much capitalism. I am not an economist or historian, but I'd say the difference is that in a capitalistic society, the employees are also consumers, part of - if not the drivers and backbone of - the economic system.

That is, simplistically speaking, employer pays employee, employee has steady income, employee goes to bank to deposit savings and take out a mortgage to buy a house, vastly improving quality of life. Bank uses savings to give out loans and mortgages allowing for people to start businesses and family lives, gains interest back, pays it back to savings accounts, etc.

Well, that was how it worked for a while anyway, nowadays I have no clue, outstanding mortgages are speculated with at high risk, banks spend your savings and the debt of your mortgage ten times over at least in financial constructions of exponential complexity, etc.

I think I stated this poorly - optimization in most economic systems ends up causing problems of morality. Any number of non-capitalist systems have their own host of problems that are comparable in magnatude.

Most of the other responses in this thread point out rightly that your predicate in item b) is the core problem of capitalism - profit is frequently optimized by creating negative externalities.

It's not really free market capitalism unless the slaves voluntarily sold themselves. They didn't. Thus it's just stealing. Stealing can also make you rich.

Interestingly, thought leaders at the time of European ownage of African slaves thought the differences of "races" were similar to the differences between species. I'd wager some people still do.

Laissez-faire[1] capitalism fundamentals require "freedom of the individual", but the definition of "individual" is usually not specific enough to afford it to all human beings or to prevent it from being ascribed to non-human entities. I wonder if we will ever get to a place where we recognize the intelligence of other species / non-human entities (non-terrestrials, AI, incredibly intelligent dogs/dolphins/elephants etc.) deserves these same protections in the economy.

Also worth noting that "negative externalities"[2] can also cause massive harm[3], but laissez-faire capitalism doesn't always afford for any protections against them (depending on how obvious/proximal they are to a human action/intention).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laissez-faire

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality#Negative

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_bondage

Thought leaders of anything defend and rationalize what is beneficial to that thing.

Communists leaders rationalized and explained communism. Not only incidentally, it made them more powerful. Thought leaders of nazi thought it is necessary to kill Jews.

Does not mean I have to buy those theories or treat them with naive "they surely meant well".

He said capitalism, not free-market capitalism.

They are not the same thing.

I don't think you deserve the down votes. Even to this day modern capitalist societies rely heavily on neocolonialism, to sustain their existence.

How does this explain the end of American slavery, which was also brought about by capitalism?

Capitalism never ended slavery, it has actually prolonged it. The constitution expressly includes an exception for slavery: if one has been convicted of a crime. This has led to the prison-industrial complex. [0] Guess what demographic is disproportionately represented in these prisons? [1]

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison%E2%80%93industrial_comp...

[1]: "African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites." (https://www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/)

Capitalism absolutely ended Slavery, and the Civil War. Eli Whitney's cotton gin and interchangeable factory made parts made it economical to produce cotton with far less labor. Capitalism did that. Serfdom and slavery isn't capitalism.

You're wrong about America and the reason for incacerarion. The African American murder rate is 8 times the rate of whites and other violent crime is thereabouts.


It it is obviously because of social policy directed towards African Americans. Their murder rates skyrocketed mostly after the 1960s. And half my American family is black and none are incarcerated; lots of high ranking police, highly-decorated soldiers, and educators.

Again, slavery was never completely abolished: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteenth_Amendment_to_the_Un.... The industrial complex is how it's capitalism: because there's a profit motive for private prisons to obtain inmates.

And not sure why you've decided to zero in on murder rates, as if everyone in prison is a convicted murderer. I also don't see how your family is relevant, as you can't extrapolate from that.

I zeroed on murder rates to bring home the point that higher rates of really serious crime, not just drug related that some think is trivial, is a relatively larger problem in the African American community than average. Some falsely believe that African Americans are incarcerated at a higher rate purely because of marijuana, minor drug possession, or re-arrests in prison. Only a small fraction of the African American community is actually incarcerated. However, it's still at a much higher rate than normal. It's not slavery. So me bringing up my family is to demonstrate that not all African American families struggle w/incarceration. Context.

And I'm not a fan or private prisons. So we agree on that. Profit motive pre-dates capitalism. Arab slave traders in the 18th century weren't capitalist by any stretch. 16th century BC slavery in North Africa Egypt had nothing to do with capitalism. So you're confusing profit seeking, which has always existed, with capitalism.

The fact is that slavery was mainstream for thousands of years before Southern Democrat slavery. It's not a coincidence that within 70 years of the invention of the Eli Whitney cotton gin that slavery ended in the West all together. Cotton production multiplied. Capitalism ended slavery in the West, with the Civil War serving as the nail in the coffin. Furthermore, slavery was only a real big thing because of agrarianism before mechanization. Capitalism mechanized (e.g. cotton gin) the world in the industrial revolution.

And if you care about slavery, you may want to direct your attention to Libya were there are actual African slave auctions. Or if you care about unjust incarceration, I'd direct criticism at China for imprisoning large swaths of their Muslim population for simply being Muslim.

The fact is that African Americans are the wealthiest of African descendants per capita among any nation. And there are more millionaires of African descent in the United States than anywhere else. There are much higher rates of African American incarceration because they commit that much more crime. The reasons are not genetic but because of social policy that has resulted in 70% rates of single-parent homes in the African American community. FYI my African American half of the relatives are mostly married families. And none are in prison. Context.

Slavery by another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon is a good book on the topic. Its not so clear cut that the civilwar actually ended slavery, it took quite a bit longer to end slavery like conditions.

There is no civilian prison in which hard labor is required in the USA. (Courts-martial sentences could include hard labor; not sure if that is used anymore.)

That's like saying child labor was never mandatory. If labor is your only possible source of income, [0] and there are heavy incentives to perform labor, then people will perform labor. It being voluntary does not change the fact that it is heavily coercive (especially when your work pool has the lowest legal rights within the citizenry—a similar situation with child rights in the past).

[0]: And if you don't have money, you cannot access the commissary nor even make a simple phone call.

  And if you don't have money, you cannot access the commissary nor even make a simple phone call.
Anybody on the outside can contribute to your commissary account... Presumably, the one with whom you plan to converse.

States rights [to own slaves]

Q. Where was the Lord?

A. Where is the Confederacy now?

Alive and well, but using other names.

The KKK was formed after the Civil War (and the Confederacy). Jim Crow Laws were long after the Confederacy supposedly died. The Civil Rights movement (specifically in Selma Alabama) was long after the Confederacy.

Parchman and Angola.

Jim Crow laws were used as the model for the Nuremberg Laws and Mein Kampf calls out the achievements of white supremacy in the USA.

Oh please. This is beyond naive. There are ~10x more slaves in the world today (30,000,000 [2]) than there were at the height of the Confederacy (3,500,000 [1]).

If this is truly your answer to “Where was God?” I ask you, “Where is God?”

Sources: [1]https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_States_of_Americ... [2]https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2013/10/17...

> Oh please. This is beyond naive

Would you please edit snarky bits and name calling out of your comments here? They degrade discussion and invite worse.

This is in the site guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

Can you explain why you think what you said was exculpatory for God's inaction?

Even if you somehow just accept that because slavery ended in the US after generations of horrifying cruelty, how do you reconcile your response with the fact that human slavery is still practiced to this very day in many places?

Its still legal in the US for prisoners. Esp. in privately owned and operated prisons (which get govt. contracts requiring a minimum number of cells to remain filled), the slaves are forced to work for American companies and get pennies per hour.

that's just an awful part of world history, what allowed that to flourish? total evil in men's hearts, this was only 200 years ago, not that long ago, this isnt something that happened 1000 years ago.

and even though the confederacy was based on slaves being unequal to whites, the civil war was not necessarily about slavery only, it was more of a split in government between a pro-agrarian society, which required large swaths of slaves, and states vs federal government. sure there were people strongly against slavery in the north like abraham lincoln and abolishinists, but i imagine a large majority in the north didnt really see that as the largest issue, it was more the south wanting to leave the united states and.form their own government.

Lincoln was elected in large part because he was opposed to allowing slavery in new states (a popular position in the North) and secession followed directly from his election, because the Confederate States saw limiting slavery in the territories as an existential threat to their own practice of slavery.

It's also kind of funny to hand wave about how the war was about a "pro-agrarian society" instead of necessarily about slavery and then immediately toss in a mention that the pro-agrarian society "required" slavery.

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.” — Abraham Lincoln's Letter to Horace Greeley; August 22, 1862.

As I said in a comment cousin to this one, the reasons that Lincoln entered the war aren't equivalent to "the reason the war happened". What you call the "cause" of the war depends on what level you're looking at.

The direct cause of the war was the Fort Sumter altercation.

The reason the Fort Sumter event occurred was that both sides were angling hard for a war they thought they could easily win.

The reason the Union wanted to fight the war was (mostly) that its leaders had strong political inclinations and economic incentives to reject the right of the Southern states to secede, and to use military force if necessary to maintain the union.

The reason the South seceded was primarily that they believed (mostly wrongly) that the North wanted to end slave ownership, which they viewed as both economically destructive and a violation of their rights.

While it's technically true that the story is more complicated than just "the war was fought over slavery", that doesn't change the fact that the existence of slavery was the most significant point of strife in the run-up to the war. But for slavery, the war would not have happened. There are few, possibly no other institutions in the America of the 1850s you can say that about. So it's absolutely correct to say that slavery was the reason the Confederates fought the war, even if it's not the reason Lincoln did. I think that gets you most of what people want to say when they say the war was over slavery.

> The reason the South seceded was primarily that they believed (mostly wrongly) that the North wanted to end slave ownership, which they viewed as both economically destructive and a violation of their rights.

The south was trying to expand slavery to territories and north.

Even assuming that is true, it makes no sense as a reason to secede. Assuming the Civil War never happened, they would still have lost all political influence by seceding.

The whole conflict was about territories. It is not like north would care what happens to slaves in the south.

There was balance - half states slave states, half not. Territories being not slave states would disturb balance. They feared being outvoted. They feared that territories being not slave states would be addmission that slavery is wrong and put pressure on them to stop slavery.

Seceding makes you completely independent. You dont loose power, you gain it.

> The reason the South seceded was primarily that they believed (mostly wrongly) that the North wanted to end slave ownership, which they viewed as both economically destructive and a violation of their rights.

Well, that, and there was a popular perception that abolitionism was just the camel's nose under the tent; the shared mindset within the South was very much "okay, we may or may not like slavery but unless we put up a decent fight now, those busybody Northerners are going to screw us over completely, what with their control of the federal government. So we've been put in a position of having to defend slavery now, whether we like it or not." If you accept this point of view, you could even view the war as having been a success for the South; sure, they gave the North abolition, but it stopped there; their broader cultural specificity was nicely preserved, in a way that it might not have been otherwise!

Written after secession...

Note how my comment talks about why Lincoln was elected (and not how he talked about the war) and about how the Southern states responded to his election.

NB: I am against slavery and racism in all its forms and times. You may believe it ridiculous that I am stating this but one never knows so I wanted to be explicit.

I didn't mean that quote as a contradiction to your statement. Indeed Lincoln had a personal wish that all be free [1]. My point was that slavery was an ancillary issue to both the start of succession and the war to end it. If what powered the south's livelihood was--let's say for the sake of argument--oil and the north was looking to ban oil as reprehensible and to make it a legal obligation to use only renewable energy then the outcome would have been identical.

Yes, Lincoln being personally for renewable and himself anti-oil would certainly have affect voting blocks respectively. But I maintain that it was still only a component of what started and sustained the war; the south saw the north as an existential threat to their mode of existence. By disallowing new regions statehood unless they outlawed oil the north was severely disrupting the previous balance of power.


[1]: "I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free." -- from the same letter

So, uh, the existential threat was to which exact mode of existence?

Was it the oil or was it the use of slaves? Go read the things the states said about secession!

For instance:


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.

They were just trying to protect their mode of existence!

I feel like there may be a misunderstanding.

I was not saying that oil was an historic reason for the civil war. I was trying to say that—for the sake of argument—oil and slaves are fungible with regard to the impetus for succession.

I think there isn't really a misunderstanding, I was being snide about the comparison because there's so much material that makes it clear enough that slavery was not ancillary to secession.

I mean, I didn't time travel and get Mississippi to create a resolution saying Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.

So try this as a thought experiment; the slaves have no economic benefit, they add nothing to sustaining the only mode of existence the south had thus far, in fact they are only a direct drain on a crop farming ecosystem. Do you still see the south seceding? I mean are you saying that they just loved having slaves no matter what it did to their bottomline?

Slavery was not an end unto itself; it was a means to an end... namely prosperity. Nobody loves oil for oil's sake--you understand that, right?

I lack the mental capacity to separate the slavery based economy and way of life from the slavery.

spot on!

Reconstruction is where the US south shows their true colors in history. If there is any doubt in your mind about what the US Civil War was about, what happened in the years immediately following the Appomattox court house surrender should clear things up.

Please lookup Jim Crow laws: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_laws ,

"Lost Cause" history rewrite: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Cause_of_the_Confederacy

Um, your theory of the civil war would've been news to Ulysses Grant who sent troops to many southern states to protect the voting rights of former slaves. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulysses_S._Grant#Later_Reconst...

Until the Civil War, slavery was like a scar that refused to heal. What's strange is that the southern aristocracy led their fellow countrymen into a hopeless war to defend a completely corrupt and diseased economic model.


> The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.

That's what the Vice President of the CSA said.

The states also issued declarations of causes. Let's look at a couple of them:


> Georgia

> A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the Federal Government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia.

> Mississippi

> Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world.

The CSA attempted to leave over the issue of slavery. Trying to say it was otherwise is to buy into the discredited Lost Cause narrative.



Hopefully to crystallize what everyone else said,

The American Civil War was not only about slavery; however, slavery was the primary motivational reason for the War.

A think a longer (but more clarifying) statement would be "slavery was the primary motivational reason for the War for the Confederates." Saying "the reason for the war" is already misleading because it assumes there was a reason than applied to both sides. On the contrary, the Union didn't conquer the South out of the goodness of their hearts because they were (mostly) fervent abolitionists. I think that's the misleading thing your summary implies.

when I was in grade school I learned that the Civil War was all about slavery. In college my roommates educated me about the numerous reasons for the civil war. After researching it more I've discovered that the Civil War was all about slavery.

Thank you!

Indeed that’s a famous letter but his implication is that his constitutional authority was to the union and as slavery was the driver of the war, the result was clear. A clever formulation, for a lawyer, designed to maintain maximum legitimacy for his actions.

His opinions, however, were clear, and that is part of why he was the republican party’s first nominee.

not trying to say that slavery wasnt an important topic at the time or trying to undermine slavery, just that sometimes slavery is being misconstrued as the only reason for the war, wars are complicated, there was a strong divide between the country at the time, and the most immediate threat was to the union separating.

this should not take away from the importance of the abolition of slavery or the fact that this was a heinous act, or the heroism of the people at the time and to this day, to some extent, of the heroes of our time still fighting racial prejudice.

Ultimately when you boil away the other reasons why the South seceded you're left with slavery.

It's States Rights[1]! It's about new territories[2]! It's about economic imperialism[3]!

[1] To own slaves

[2] To open up new plantations with slaves

[3] Against slaveowning businesses

Freeing slaves had the effect of taking away "property" from people.

Any change to the status quo that affects someones finances, you'll see some level of opposition.

The federal government paid “reparations” to those former slave owners and they were wealthier by the 1880s than they had been before the war.

Only happened in DC for very few people, so I'm not sure your statement holds: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compensated_emancipation#Unite...

Thank you, you caused me to dig up what I had read and I misremembered the causes. But within 15 years the rich were back on top.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2019/04/04/how-sout... (original study: https://www.nber.org/papers/w25700 )

Slightly different analysis, on wealth mobility on a shorter timescale: https://voxeu.org/article/impact-us-civil-war-southern-wealt...

>what allowed that to flourish? total evil in men's hearts

To believe this is to be deceived. It leads to the idea that "I'm not 'totally evil,' thus I'm not at risk for doing something like this." But there were kind-hearted Nazis and black-hearted Allies, Stalin was reported to be a doting father, and some slaves struggled terribly after emancipation.

If we don't see things clearly, we put ourselves at risk of repeating the mistakes of those we disparage, though perhaps in a different form.

Agreed. Seeing people as completely "evil" or "not evil" is a big mistake. For example a lot of people think that if someone has nice family and goes to church he is a "good man". But plenty of these people have committed mass murder while being nice at home.

It's also worth mentioning that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850[1] made it a crime for police and private citizens in slavery-illegal states ("the North") not to arrest and return slaves to the estate that they escaped from. In effect, the "good people" in the entire country were still culpable of the continuing existence of that "Peculiar Institution".

I wonder what an average Northern jury person would think of prosecuting another Northerner who was charged with harboring a runaway slave in a Northern state (where slavery was illegal at the time). If the law says that the jury can only consider the facts of the case, not whether the law is just or moral/ethical, what are we to make of our legal system?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugitive_Slave_Act_of_1850

The great thing about Juries is that Jury nullification necessarily exists as well.

Juries are one of the most powerful institutions in the country, but they also have an extremely narrowly defined scope. Whatever the law, and whatever the facts of the case, a Jury has absolute power to find the defendant guilty or not guilty.

It's important to note that that power goes both ways, alas.

This quote from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching_in_the_United_States is very much on topic: "Fewer than one percent of lynch mob participants were ever convicted by local courts and they were seldom prosecuted or brought to trial. By the late 19th century, trial juries in most of the southern United States were all white because African Americans had been disenfranchised, and only registered voters could serve as jurors. Often juries never let the matter go past the inquest."

Any system of government is only as good as the culture of the people it governs. Angels don’t serve on Juries in Hell.


Reminds me of the Scott Warren case[1] from last month.

[1] https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900075129/how-giving-wat...

> total evil in men's hearts, this was only 200 years ago, not that long ago, this isnt something that happened 1000 years ago.

Slavery is alive and well. Don't have to look 200 years into the past. This was just in 2017 in Libya.


> "The footage released by CNN appears to show youths from Niger and other sub-Saharan countries being sold to buyers for about $400 (£300) at undisclosed locations in Libya..."

It's not at the same scale as before but the practice certainly hasn't ended. It's also important to ask what allowed it to flourish.

> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libya

> "...More than 8,000 American personnel in warships and aircraft were deployed in the area. At least 3,000 targets were struck in 14,202 strike sorties, 716 of them in Tripoli and 492 in Brega.[87] The American air offensive included flights of B-2 Stealth bombers, each bomber armed with sixteen 2000-pound bombs, flying out of and returning to their base in Missouri in the continental United States..."

And here is ex Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cheerfully exclaiming "We came, we saw, he died" all laughing and giggling like it's a joke.


Well, there was no slavery in Libya until Team America decided to drop in.

> total evil in men's hearts

Who put it there, hmm?

Seems like a reasonable question to ask.

I suspect the downvotes are because this appears to be either a useless question (because it violates dogma of the most common Christian sect in the US) or because it's seen as a "cheap shot" at those beliefs, but it still seems like an important question we need to continually struggle with. It's not like we have proven the null hypothesis.

I suspect you're just trolling - but in case you're interested in /a/ perspective from within the broader Christian tradition...

What is evil? What would "evil in men's hearts" mean?

Evil as a concept can only exist if there is some kind of definition of Good, or Anti-Evil as well.

If Good and Evil are both just arbitary made-up definitions by some supreme being with a control-complex, then screw everything, it's all a meaningless shitshow.

Equally, if there is no Good or Evil, just physical/chemical/quantum reactions in a purely mechanical universe, then equally, screw everything. Do whatever makes the happy-chemicals in your brain do their thing.

However, if there is some kind of absolute Good, and absolute Evil, and it's just figuring out what those are and mean that's the complex bit - now we have an interesting universe, and the potential for some kind of meaningful life.

We all argue about whether or not there is a God - or if there is, what He/She/It/They think is Good and Evil, both in our behaviour and in theirs.

But the concept of there being actions which are Good, or Right, and actions which are Evil or Wrong somehow seems baked into our outlook. We disagree about specifics, sure.

It could be that for there to be the potential for Good there is also the potential for Evil. Maybe it's impossible to have Good in our hearts if there is not also Evil.

So what would a supreme being want from us? To aim for good, and avoid evil, sure. We want that from each other too. And from ourselves.

But there are other things too. The bible trys to say God's desired interaction with us is closest understood by the analogy of a Father/Child relationship.

So as a Dad, sure, I want a bit of obedience, especially when they're young and learning... But I'd rather my kids choose Good themselves, and listen to me for advice, and decide for themselves whether or not what I say is Good. And if they disagree, but it's not going to hurt them (too much) or others, then I prefer them do something I think is wrong than them to blindly obey me. I can give them advice, direction, but the older they grow, the more what I really want from them is more and more towards a real friendship.

And I believe the same is true with our interaction with God. I believe God is more interested in a relationship with us, even if we're arguing and debating with Him/Her/It/Them, than in us blinding obeying. I believe there is the potential for a much more fulfilling life by pursuing meaning (and God) than by deliberately turning our backs on the idea.

Jesus said "seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you". Seems like a good advice to me.

(If you want some links, Luke's gospel is an interesting place to start. Or "The Case for Christ" (The book by Lee Strobel - ignore the preachy movie) might be interesting.)

> Equally, if there is no Good or Evil, just physical/chemical/quantum reactions in a purely mechanical universe, then equally, screw everything. Do whatever makes the happy-chemicals in your brain do their thing.

This strikes me as extremely flawed reasoning, creating a false dichotomy between ${religion} and nihilism.

You don't need absolutes to exist in order for a concept to be meaningful. "Absolute Good" may be a contradiction in terms but that doesn't mean you can't judge whether something is good or bad (or make a more nuanced argument for why some aspects are good or bad in some ways). The same way as you don't need "absolute wet" to exist in order to judge whether something is wet or dry.

It's also a common parlor trick to talk about "evil" instead of "bad" as the antithesis of "good". Evil implies intent. But very few people would think of themselves as intentionally evil and take joy in that. Practically speaking "evil" is another way to say "sinful" and "sin" is a concept that only exists in religion because in most cases it describes genuinely "victimless crimes" as "crimes against God", specific religious codes of conduct that are imposed without a logical underpinning (e.g. "don't wear mixed fabrics" but also "don't kill people").

Religious morals generally don't care about good and bad, they care about adherence to a set of strict but arbitrary rules. Moderates in most religions pick and chose which rules are the "important" ones but they tend to base those decisions on social norms that have formed in the broader context their religion exists in, not some "inner truth" or unbiased intuition.

So in other words: "evil" is a distraction. It's how you perceive something but it says nothing about intent or cause. You can call someone an evil person, sure, but they don't get out of bed thinking "I'm so evil, I'm going to do a lot of evil things today", they just act in ways that actively harm people either out of disregard for other people's well-being or far more often out of a conflicting idea of what is or isn't harmful (or only empathising with a very narrow subset of the people they affect).

> This strikes me as extremely flawed reasoning, creating a false dichotomy between ${religion} and nihilism.

Possibly, sorry about that. I guess I've expressed it a bit extreme there - but even toned down, I still feel (yeah, feel. goodbye reason...) that there's some truth to the concept...

Defining "goodness" is difficult. There's a whole bunch of different attempts - logical positivism, utilitarianism, etc, but to me all of them eventually boiled down to some kind of "do whatever makes the happy-chemicals in your brain do their thing...". At some point you have to decide which other non-you-beings you want to compromise with, and which physical/chemical urges you want to cultivate, and which balance between longer-term-goals and instant gratification you want to achieve. Keeping humanity alive, wiping ourselves out to allow other species to survive better for a few more thousand years until something cosmic wipes us all out... It doesn't really make any difference in the end.

> You don't need absolutes to exist in order for a concept to be meaningful. <snip> The same way as you don't need "absolute wet" to exist in order to judge whether something is wet or dry.


But some kind of definition of wetness, or dryness is probably helpful. :-)

>It's also a common parlor trick to talk about "evil" instead of "bad" as the antithesis of "good". Evil implies intent.

Ah, yes. I guess I'm not really using the right terminology at the moment. Terminology is complicated.

I guess so there should be a scale of "good occurances" and "bad occurances", with evil being intention of bad occurances? But to whom? Is a prison guard commanded to hurt his prisoners intending bad occurances to his prisoners, but intending good for his family being provided for? Is there any way to define whether hurting someone is good or bad? You could argue surgery or chemotherapy is very specifically hurting people with the intention of good for them later... But genocide has been justified under the same argument - but on a societal level. Is there any way to define which things are good, or bad?

I believe there is Good, and anti-good. And I believe that there is a being beyond of our limited perspective, God, who cares about that, and wants us to aim for Good, and if we're willing, will help us in that direction.

> Religious morals generally don't care about good and bad, they care about adherence to a set of strict but arbitrary rules.

Sad, but true.

However, from how I've read the bible, I don't think that's how God (if there is a God) really wants it to be. And if there is a God, and if that's all they care about, they're really not worth caring about.

I wasn't intending to troll, but I admit to being snippy - it's one of my pet hates when anything good that happens is attributed to God and then in the same breath anything bad that happens is blamed on people.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I'll look into the book you mention.

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