Storm Bear

Black History: The Causes of the Civil War

Filed By Storm Bear | April 22, 2008 12:03 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Abraham Lincoln, civil war, gay cartoons and comics, slavery, webcomics


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SPECIAL REQUEST FOR TCD FANS: The San Francisco Chronicle is pondering the addition of new cartoons for their paper - a process that seems to be initiated by Darren Bell, creator of Candorville (one of my daily reads - highly recommended). You can read the Chronicle article here and please add your thoughts to the comments if you wish. If anything, put in a good word for Darren and Candorville.

I am submitting Town Called Dobson to the paper for their consideration. They seem to have given great weight to receiving 200 messages considering Candorville. I am asking TCD fans to try to surpass that amount. (I get more than that many hate mails a day, surely fans can do better?)

This is not a race between Darren and I, it is a hope that more progressive strips can be represented in the printed press of America.

So if you read the San Francisco Chronicle or live in the Bay Area (Google Analytics tell me there are a lot of you), please send your kind comments (or naked, straining outrage) to David Wiegand at his published addresses below. If you are a subscriber, cut out your mailing label and staple it to a TCD strip and include it in your letter.

candorcomment@sfchronicle.com

or

David Wiegand
Executive Datebook Editor
The San Francisco Chronicle
901 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

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Strip Essay:
The main explanation for the origins of the American Civil War was slavery, especially the issue of the expansion of slavery into the territories. States' rights and the tariff became entangled in the slavery issue, and were intensified by it. Other important factors were party politics, expansionism, sectionalism, economics and modernization in the Antebellum Period.

The United States was a nation divided into two distinct regions separated by the Mason-Dixon line. New England, the Northeast and the Midwest had a rapidly growing economy based on family farms, industry, mining, commerce and transportation, with a large and rapidly growing urban population and no slavery outside the border states. Its growth was fed by a high birth rate and large numbers of European immigrants, especially Irish, British, German, Polish and Scandinavian.

The South was dominated by a settled plantation system based on slavery, with rapid growth taking place in the Southwest, such as Texas, based on high birth rates and low immigration from Europe. There were few cities or towns, and little manufacturing except in border areas. Slave owners controlled politics and economics. Two-thirds of the Southern whites owned no slaves and usually were engaged in subsistence agriculture, but support for slavery came from all segments of southern society.

Overall, the Northern population was growing much more quickly than the Southern population, which made it increasingly difficult for the South to continue to control the national government. Southerners were worried about the relative political decline of their region because the North was growing much faster in terms of population and industrial output.

In the interest of maintaining unity, politicians had mostly moderated opposition to slavery, resulting in numerous compromises such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820. After the Mexican-American War, the issue of slavery in the new territories led to the Compromise of 1850. While the compromise averted an immediate political crisis, it did not permanently resolve the issue of the Slave power (the power of slaveholders to control the national government).

Amid the emergence of increasingly virulent and hostile sectional ideologies in national politics, the collapse of the old Second Party System in the 1850s hampered efforts of the politicians to reach yet one more compromise. The compromise that was reached (the Kansas-Nebraska Act) outraged too many northerners. In the 1850s, with the rise of the Republican Party, the first major party with no appeal in the South, the industrializing North and agrarian Midwest became committed to the economic ethos of free-labor industrial capitalism.

Arguments that slavery was undesirable for the nation had long existed. After 1840 abolitionists denounced slavery as more than a social evil -- it was a moral wrong. Many Northerners, especially leaders of the new Republican Party, considered slavery a great national evil and believed that a small number of Southern owners of large plantations controlled the national government with the goal of spreading that evil.

In 1860, the election of Abraham Lincoln, who won the national election without receiving a single electoral vote from any of the Southern states, triggered the secession of the cotton states of the Deep South from the union.

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Interesting historical footnote: PBS's "American Experience" series recently ran an excellent bio on Walt Whitman. Interestingly, the young Walt Whitman was first uninterested in the slavery issue during his time in NYC, then later wrote an editorial or two opposing slavery because white working-class men could not compete economically with slavery --- in other words, slaves filled labor needs that should have been filled via paying jobs for blue-collar white men. --- Interesting argument, an opposition to slavery that was still quite racist, saying in effect that white men deserved paying jobs and black men didn't.

Then Walt Whitman was offered a newspaper job in New Orleans, which he accepted. In New Orleans he witnessed the horrors that slaves went through on the auction blocks. Whitman identified with the slaves and quickly came to realize the utter inhumanity of slavery.

Regarding your description of the national forces that led up to the Civil War, Storm, I have always considered it essential to mention that by the middle of the war, Lincoln was running out of soldiers. Popularly we think that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 simply to free the slaves. But Lincoln's real motivation was a military one: Lincoln knew that many of the freed black male slaves would travel toward Washington DC and enlist in the Union Army as soldiers. The strategy worked. By the end of the war, a full one-third of the Union forces were black. 187,000 black soldiers fought in the Civil War, and 37,000 gave their lives.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 22, 2008 1:28 PM

I would add to the esteemed AJ's comment that the enlightened solution prior to the election of Lincoln was the return of slaves to Africa as it was felt that, although human, they were inferior. There was never an even playing field and it sickens me to hear Repubs say that they are the party of Lincoln. If so, where is the damn 40 acres and a mule blacks were promised by white politicians?

AJ, Lincoln was beginning to grasp at straws. He was running out of everything - men, horses, copper, lead, tanks, body armor, anti-aircraft weap... oh wait, I forget we were talking about Lincoln and not Bush.

My bad.