Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States

By February 27, 2018June 22nd, 2021Review Posts

A review of Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States (Charleston Athenaeum Press, 2014) by Gene Kizer, Jr.

In all my growing up years I was taught that the War Between the States was fought over slavery. That’s what the “history” books, so called, told us and it is certainly what the “news media” has screamed about as the cause of the War for decades now. It’s what the entertainment industry has thrown at us for decades also. I still recall watching the movie Gettysburg in which a Confederate prisoner of war asked a Union officer why he was fighting and the Union officer replied “To preserve the Union and free the slaves.” The fact that the Union had no right to free anyone in another country never seemed to occur to him. I’ve often asked the question–if the Union was so hot to free the slaves then why didn’t they start out by freeing those slaves in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, all of which, for various reasons, remained in the Union. I have yet to get a satisfactory answer. Mr. Kizer has asked the same question and I doubt he has gotten one either. Part of the reason for that just might be that the War was really not about slavery to begin with.

Gene Kizer Jr. has proved that point in his book Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, published by Charleston Athenaeum Press in Charleston and James Island, South Carolina. Mr. Kizer delves, with astounding accuracy, into why most of what you read about the reasons for the War today is almost pure fiction. Mr. Kizer has written in such depth that I could almost do a book review of the introduction to his book. That thought came to me as I read the introduction to his book. Mr. Kizer noted in his introduction that: I argue that slavery was not the cause of the War Between the States. There is absolute, irrefutable proof that the North did not go to war to free the slaves or end slavery. The North went to war to preserve the Union as Abraham Lincoln said over and over.” And then Mr. Kizer proceeds to give you the real reason why Lincoln had to preserve the Union–and it is one I don’t ever recall seeing in any of the history books I have read that dealt with the War.

He  noted, of Lincoln, on page xviii that: “He had no problem with slavery where it existed. He just didn’t want it ‘extended’ so he supported the Corwin Amendment, which left black people in slavery forever, even beyond the reach of Congress, where it already existed.” Lincoln wanted no slaves in the West, but that was not for altruistic reasons by any means. Lincoln was truly a sectional president and, in spite of all the clever rhetoric to the contrary, the South to get a raw deal from him.

Mr. Kizer breaks his book down into three parts: Part One showing his irrefutable argument as to why the War was not fought over slavery; Part Two explaining the right of secession (another question that should be debated today) and Part Three dealing with Lincoln and how he maneuvered that situation to give the South a black eye and make himself look good.

There were times in reading this book that I became angry, not with Mr Kizer for telling us the truth, but about how we have been lied to about the real reasons for this unnecessary war and the many historical falsehoods we have had spread before us to turn us away from legitimate questions as to what went on and why. I have come to the conclusion that most (though there are some exceptions) historians do not want us to know the real truth about that war and the real reasons it was fought. Mr. Kizer gives us the truth the “historians” have sought to conceal from us in so many areas. And the thought occurs to me that, if they have lied to us here, what about in other areas of our history?

Kizer gives us the truth about the Emancipation Proclamation, starting on page 10, noting that it is “a fitting and necessary war measure for suppressing the rebellion.” He notes, as I did, that the slaves were not freed in Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri, nor were they freed in that new Union state of West Virginia, nor were they freed in any territory the Union had recaptured from the Confederate States. That fact, alone, left 500,000 blacks in slavery in Union controlled areas. If the Union was so keen on ending slavery why didn’t they start in these areas? Lincoln only sought to free slaves where he had no authority and he left them in bondage where he did have authority. That fact, alone, speaks volumes as to the real reasons for the War.

Kizer noted commentary by two historians on page 17 to the effect  that the percentage of abolitionists in the North was only somewhere between 2 and 5 percent and, ironically, “…many of them didn’t like slavery because they didn’t like blacks and did not want to associate with them.” On page 28 a footnote observes that”…the North allowed slave states to be part of the Union, and the South allowed free states to be part of the Confederacy. The South anticipated that several free states with economic ties to the South would join the CSA and this bothered Lincoln greatly.”

Kizer observed that Lincoln was greatly concerned that a separate Confederate States would basically operate on the free trade basis and thus many shippers would start doing business with the Confederate States to avoid Lincoln’s tariff. In regard to the tariff, he notes, on page 50 that: “It allowed Northern businesses to ignore market competition and charge right up to the level of the tariff. The higher a tariff they could get, through political manipulation, the more money that went into their pockets.

Preserving the Union, the North’s cash money machine–its suction pump, its cash cow–was critical, not just desirable. As the Northern businessmen concluded: ‘The Union must be preserved. Any other outcome meant economic suicide, which meant bankruptcy, anarchy, and societal collapse. Lincoln and the Northern Congress understood this completely’…” So, when push came to shove, it was all about preserving the Northern economy at the expense of the South. Slavery was, at best, a peripheral issue.

Also worth noting, and Kizer points this out, is that the last four states that seceded to join the Confederacy never did secede over the slavery issue–they seceded because Lincoln planned to invade the South and they were not real happy at having their states invaded and overrun. What normal person could blame them? Lincoln realize that the only thing that could “preserve the Union” (and keep his tariff in place) was a war–and so Mr. Lincoln gave us a war.

In relation to the second section of his book, the part on secession, Mr. Kizer explained how the South felt in regard to that (and I agree with them). The Southern states believed the Constitution allowed for secession, particularly since three states, Virginia, Rhode Island, and New York all had secession language in their ratifications to the Constitution–and that language was accepted. That meant that if those three states could secede then any state could. This section of the book on secession goes from pages 107-195. It is most definitely worth studying.

The third section of the book, dealing with Lincoln and Fort Sumter was interesting, but I felt that the first two sections were really critical to our understanding of our history, or lack thereof today. This book should be in every public library in the country (alas, probably a fond dream) and it should be in every school library as well. Should any librarians chance to read this review I hope it may challenge them to get a copy for their library.  For those that wish to understand the real reasons for our War Between the States (not slavery) this book is a must!

Al Benson

Al Benson, M.D., is the co-author of Lincoln's Marxists with Donnie Kennedy.

Leave a Reply