The primary source record is clear. A main reason 19th century Southerners were forced to defend slavery as a practical matter was the absolute unwillingness of the North to allow dispersion and integration of the freed people across the Union and its territories. A chronic Northern racism was intent on keeping all blacks bottled up in the South if freed.

That meant an absolute social disaster in the South as many of the freed people, cut off from the required cradle to grave welfare of the master, would be forced into a life of mendicancy and crime to survive; not to mention the certain peril of those too old or too young to work who were entirely dependent upon the cradle to grave welfare of the master.. Slaves were already being rented out to economically accommodate their excess numbers. And with no surplus land in the South for subsistence farming, the freed people faced certain disaster. There simply was not enough available land or jobs in the South to accommodate them.

Yet the Republican Party, dead set on keeping Northern States free of new blacks, and the territories for whites only, attacked the South for its seeking the equal right to expand any of its black population into the territories; an arid land unaccommodating to plantation slavery, but where slaves could be dispersed and freed with land to survive. It was Northern racism that drove a segregation that would keep blacks out of the territories. Lincoln made this clear:

“There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races … A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas…” – Abraham Lincoln, 6/26/1857.

Senator Jefferson Davis, in an 1850 speech on the Senate floor, pointed out the hypocrisy of Northern “antislavery” opposition to taking slaves into the territories as the reason slaves were not being emancipated:

“What has been the progress of emancipation throughout the whole history of our country? It has been the pressure of free labor upon the less profitable slave labor, until the slaves were transferred to sparser regions, and their number, by such transfer, was reduced to a limit at which, without inconvenience or danger, or serious loss, emancipation of the few who remained might occur….  it is odious among us now, as it was with our ancestors. We only defend the domestic institution of slavery as it exists in the United States; the extension of which into any new Territory will not increase the number of the slaves by one single person, but which it is very probable may, in many instances, produce emancipation… It is not, then, for the purpose of emancipation or for the benefit of the slaves that it is sought to restrict it… “

Northern States had laws forbidding new blacks from entering their borders. In 1862 the Senate was firmly in the grips of the Republican Party. Members of that Party openly joked on the Senate floor about their own unwillingness to accommodate blacks in Northern States if freed. Read this excerpt from the speech of Republican J. R. Doolittle, of Wisconsin, on Emancipation and Colonization; delivered in the Senate of the United States, March 19, 1862:

“A very distinguished gentleman from Vermont was first elected to Congress, I believe, about 1843. One of the well to do farmers in his neighborhood called upon him, the evening before he was to leave for Washington, to pay his respects. He found him in his office, and told him that he came for that purpose, and to bid him goodbye.

‘And now, judge,’ said he, ‘when you get to Washington, I want to have you take hold of this Negro business and dispose of it in some way or other; have slavery abolished and be done with it.’

‘Well,’ said the judge, ‘as the people who owned the slaves, or claim to own them, have paid their money for them, and hold them as property under their state laws, would it not be just, if we abolish slavery, that some provision should be made to make them compensation?’

‘But,’ said the judge, ‘there is one other question; when the Negroes are emancipated, what shall be done with them? They are poor people; they will have nothing; there must be someplace for them to live. Do you think it would be any more than fair that we should take our share of them?’

‘Well, what would be our share in the town of Woodstock?’ He inquired.

The judge replied: ‘There are about 2500 people in Woodstock; and if you take the census and make the computation, you will find that there would be about one for every five white person; so that here in Woodstock our share would be about 500.’

‘What!’ Said he, ‘five hundred Negros in Woodstock! Judge, I called to pay my respect; I bid you good evening;’ and he started for the door and mounted his horse. As he was about to leave, he turned around and said, ‘judge, I guess you need not do anything more about that Negro business on my account.’ [Laughter.]

(Congressional globe, 37th Congress, 2nd session, vol. IV, appendix, page 84, col. 3)

Northern “antislavery” was, in the vast majority, an “antiblack” crusade with sectional political advantages attached. Being rid of blacks was a primary goal. Forcing emancipation, with the blacks kept bottled up in the South, would expedite colonization; or if not colonization, it was believed that confinement to the South, cut off from the cradle to grave welfare of the master, would lead to a Darwinian “dying out” of all the destitute blacks. Abolitionist Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaimed, “The abolitionist wishes to abolish slavery, but because he wishes to abolish the black man.” To which he added, “the dark man, the black man declines… It will happen by and by, that the black man will only be destined for museums like the Dodo.” Such genocide was discussed openly by Northern Senators on the floor of the Senate. New York Senator, John Dix, for whom Ft. Dix is named, made a speech supporting the “dying out” of the slaves, to which then Senator Jeff Davis responded:

“With surprise and horror, I heard this announcement of a policy which seeks, through poverty and degradation, the extinction of a race of human beings domesticated among us. We, sir, stand in such a relation to that people as creates a feeling of kindness and protection. We have attachments which have grown with us from childhood – to the old servant who nursed us in infancy, to the man who was the companion of our childhood, and the not less tender regard for those who have been reared under our protection. To hear their extinction treated as a matter of public policy or of speculative philosophy arouses our sympathy and our indignation.”

Most Southerners were adamantly against deporting the slaves they had known from childhood. And they certainly were against the slaves being forced to “die out” landless and penniless. Which is why General Lee stated:

“The best men in the South have long desired to do away with the institution of slavery and were quite willing to see it abolished.  But, unless some humane course, based on wisdom and Christian principles, is adopted, you do them great injustice in setting them free.”

It was Northern segregationist racism that forced the South to defend slavery, not out of a desire to perpetuate and extend the institution, but as a means of protecting the Southern economy and society, as well as the slaves themselves from the inhumane disaster that would have been had emancipation been confined within Southern borders alone.

A slave master quoted in the 1854 study, “A Southside View of Slavery” said, “‘If our friends at the north would devise ways in which we could dispose of these poor people FOR THEIR GOOD, I should then no longer be a ‘servant of servants.’” (Emphasis mine)

For Southerners and Northerners alike, the problem was “what to do with the negro.” The answer to that question differed greatly by section. Most Southerners sought a humane answer that would assimilate the freed people into American society across the Union. As Jeff Davis stated, “Slavery is for its end the preparation of that race for civil liberty and social enjoyment… When the time shall arrive at which emancipation is proper, those most interested will be most anxious to effect it.” Northerners were having none of that assimilation. What kept Davis’ “proper time” for emancipation arriving was Northern refusal to disperse and integrate blacks.  Abolitionist Dr. Nehemiah Adams in his above-mentioned study of slavery stated regretfully:

“There are, probably, few who would not abstractly prefer free labor; but what shall be done with the blacks?  There has never been a time in the history of our discussions on this subject, when, the South had expressed her willingness to part with the slaves, we at the north could have agreed in what way they should have been disposed of. Who has ever proposed a plan of relief which could in a good measure unite us? What shall be done with the blacks? On the evils of slavery all are well-informed. But as to this essential question we get no light.”

An Alabama Secession Commissioner explained why he was going to vote for secession in terms that reveals a common humane concern for the outcome to freed slaves:

“Mr. President, if pecuniary loss alone were involved in the abolition of slavery, I should hesitate long before I would give the vote I now intend to give. If the destruction of slavery entailed on us poverty alone, I could bear it, for I have seen poverty and felt its sting. But poverty, Mr. President, would be one of the least of the evils that would befall us from the abolition of African slavery. There are now in the slaveholding States over four millions of slaves; dissolve the relation of master and slave, and what, I ask, would become of that race?”

The Mississippi Declaration of Secession asserted the Southern concern for the slaves lamenting that the North, “seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better.”

A British publication summed up the South’s dilemma:

“The South has hitherto clung to slavery – because it saw no way to abolish it, without cruelty to the unprepared negro… it does not fight for the maintenance of slavery, as the North pretends, and as some in Europe still believes, but for independence… the sentiment of the Southern people towards the negroes was so kindly that there was nothing in the world that could be done to ameliorate their condition that the South would not gladly undertake.” (“The Friend of India” Dec 29, 1864).

Here presented is just a small sampling of primary sources that reveal just how skewed the truth is in the popular narrative that the South seceded to “perpetuate and extend slavery,” Also skewed is the fabrication that the recalcitrant North held a sincere moral concern for the slaves when, in reality, it opposed dispersion and integration of those freed, and just wanted blacks gone! Had Lincoln not been assassinated, and had Republicans not realized that freed slaves were a potential voting block for Republican control of the South, one can only wonder in what godforsaken place the descendants of slaves would be living today, or if they would exist at all.

Rod O'Barr

Rod O’Barr is retired and lives in Tennessee with his wife of 45 years, Kathy. He has advanced degrees in Philosophy and Theology, and a lifelong interest in history. He is the webmaster of a WWII website and a member of both the Abbeville Institute and the SCV. When not enjoying time with his children he enjoys doing living history at local schools.


  • Billy P says:

    Excellent article.
    As they saying goes; “it’s easier to fool someone than convince them they’ve been fooled”. The people in this country are 180 degrees off in their understanding of the war to prevent southern independence. Slavery was a subject for both sides as indicated in the text because it was pivotal in concern on both sides for their own reasons, but it was not the primary driver and not what people have come to believe thanks to government indoctrination and non-stop northern lies. Those blockades in Charleston were in place for revenue collection, not to stop anything slave related.
    Defending one’s home during an illegal and unconstitutional invasion was THE cause of the war. The bait at Ft. Sumter was a calculated event put in place by a deceitful, lying politician named Lincoln. To attempt to morally justify his invasion mid-war with an absolutely toothless, virtue signaling “proclamation” was a farce. Unfortunately, the lie has taken hold and few of us anymore know the truth.
    The slaves were caught in the middle, hundreds of thousands dying after the war by starvation thanks to their supposed liberation. Exactly what the south had hoped to avoid.

  • William Quinton Platt III says:

    Oregon entered the union as a whites-only state…

    How many slave uprisings occurred during the War Between the States? Only one that I know of…the New York City draft riots of 1863. Why were they slaves? Because with 300 dollars, a person could buy his freedom from the draft.

  • Paul Yarbrough says:

    Conservatism will rot on the poisonous vine of polemical politics until blathering faux conservatives understand history and the birth of Union NOT Nation! Damn the neocons and their pretentious cousins, the faux conservatives. Most hot air isn’t coming to our once proud union via CCP balloons but from Republican blowhards.

  • Valerie Protopapas says:

    Blacks did not move north until WWI when the labor shortage caused by whites drafted into the military made their need essential. The real problem is this, however: there is a fairly large percentage of blacks ~ nowhere near all of course ~ that require limitations of their “freedom” to do what they will do without those limitations. During the several years I spent researching my book about Col. John Mosby in the newspapers, using the names Mosby, Moseby and Moseley as key words, I found a TON of blacks in those same newspapers and I can assure you less than 2% of those mentioned in the press were not involved in some criminal activity, much of it extremely violent and brainless. Slavery protected blacks from their own lack of commonsense and inability to forego immediate “gratification” in order to live a civilized life. Again, this was nowhere near ALL blacks, but it was a very considerable number of them. Indeed, we see this today and it is worse because before, when they were held to the same standards of other people in society, they still believed that they had “done nothing” and it was always “somebody else’s fault” (infantile behavior!) but today, the whole culture backs up their claim that they are the “victims” and their victims are responsible not only for what happened to them but for the condition of the blacks that resulted in the crimes involved! The communists understood that America’s Achilles’ heel was race and they took advantage of it and are still doing so. This won’t be stopped until we are able to acknowledge that all this “racism” (a word invented by Leon Trotsky!) is a strategy leading to our conquest but I don’t think we any longer have the will or the courage to fight back.

    • Jo says:

      If one cannot identify the enemy (and it isn’t ‘communism’ per se’) then the war, let alone the battles, will never be won. Look a bit deeper.

  • George Hart says:

    They are what they are. Endless, mindless, senseless, violence, against their own kind and us! the leopard cannot change his spots.

    • Lawrwnce says:

      Disagree I’m black I’m understanding more and truth in reading history versus victim blaming. Being propelled by a individual self reflection of being very honored to have white male figures younger or older in my life. It Gave me sense of hope. Rather it was the priest who I treated better then my father because he was there more then my father and he was really a Great Person who Seeked approval from. Very early I knew my white friends was to be cherished and be a good boy you might get to have dinner w them. So my whole life has been seeking something from White Men and I can’t find anywhere else and was enlightened by an old co workers who use racism on the job towards me at the time I was a filled w ego complained and got myself fired. What I knew was that, it only bothered me when though what others like me would think I also knew the guy hired me and when he made jokes about me and ordering me to pick up trash he did it w a smile and It went well when I smiled back. It thought me a valuable lesson to either quit or find ways to show A white Co Worker Space to speak freely. In my life I had opportunities to speak w friends who openly use the N word in describing a black friend to me and I felt so grateful he was able to speak to me in a way that was Authentic and I felt empowered. I prove that individually I support a heritage of the southern Great Whites true historical significance of their contributions to me to appreciate the moral and spiritual beliefs that til this day if I am honest hold comfort That Superior White Men In my experience exist for greater good and I’m a inferior who abilities to appreciate True history and be a individual person that prove no matter your race as I am proud black slave descendant who feels it ok to acknowledge truth and to believe my experience and world view is for a Prosperity for All. My personal view is I can have equal rights but equal abilities and It’s ok based on my American heritage to naturally feel this and freely find a community that provide a safe space to be

  • John says:

    The curiosity that supports the point is that the Underground Railroad went to Canada.
    The abolitionist unuttered creed was “not in my neighborhood”.

    • William Quinton Platt III says:

      Well, they couldn’t stay in Illinois. The State Constitution prohibited blacks from entering after 1857.

  • Lafayette Burner says:

    The non-popular Republican apparatus that created West Virginia and drafted the constitution provided that “no slave shall be brought, or free person of color permitted to come into the State for permanent residence.” It’s important to note that “Carlile declared that none of the Wheeling conventions had been representative of the people of the new state and that a majority of the voters had never expressed their opinion on the question by electing delegates to the conventions or in referenda on convention decisions.” (reference “West Virginia, A History” by Rice and Brown, 1993 2nd print ed. p.147)

  • Jo says:

    Judah Benjamin (went back to The City and his bosses) of the south. I’m not sure what became of August (Schonberg) Belmont in the north.

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