Monday, December 11, 2006


H. Mills Thornton makes a compelling argument that the non sequitur in the disunionist case concerning exclusion from the territories, and the fact that unionists rarely pointed out the obvious error, demonstrates that something else was going on:

"The careful reader will have observed a fundamental non sequitur in the southern rights case. If the great threat of free-soil was that it would trap southerners in the South amidst the rising tide of Negroes, how would secession remedy the predicament? Would not independence shut southerners out of the territories even more effectively than would the adoption of a free-soil policy by the federal government? . . . If getting access to that territory was the primary southern goal, southerners had certainly not selected a means which gave obvious promise of being efficacious.

"It is essential to note, however, that . . . Unionists almost never mentioned the difficulty. The solution to this paradox is the identification of which element in the southern rights case was the primary source of its force. Despite all the discussion about the effects of free-soil upon southern slavery, the threat of Negro inundation was not the chief terror with which the case conjured; and the Unionists knew it. . . . The essence of the case was not what would happen to southerners when they were excluded from the territories but was the fact that they were to be excluded. That the exclusion would wreak ill in the economic and social environment of the South was mere lagniappe to the argument; the true ills would be wrought in the hearts of those debarred. Free-soil was an issue basically because it would represent an overtly discriminatory action by the common government."

* * *

"Secession, then, was not really intended as a remedy for the consequences of free-soil . . .. It was to be revenge for the condemnation implied by the policy and the inequality inherent in it. Southerners were Americans and they wanted to be treated like Americans; we must never forget that they saw themselves as struggling to preserve the substance of the American dream."

H. Mills Thornton III,
Politics and Power in a Slave Society: Alabama 1800-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1978), pp. 225-27 (emphasis added).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails