Jefferson Davis on Why the South Fought

Richmond Examiner editorial

August 02, 1864

Mr. Davis, in conversation with a Yankee spy, named Edward Kirk, is reported by said spy to have said, “We are not fighting for slavery; we are fighting for independence.” This is true; and is a truth that has not sufficiently been dwelt upon. It would have been very much to be desired that this functionary had developed the idea in some message, or some other State paper… instead of leaving it to be promulgated through the doubtful report of an impudent blockade-runner.… The sentiment is true, and should be publicly uttered and kept conspicuously in view; because our enemies have diligently labored to make all mankind believe that the people of these States have set up a pretended State sovereignty, and based themselves upon that ostensibly, while their real object has been only to preserve to themselves the property in so many negroes, worth so many millions of dollars. The direct reverse is the truth. The question of slavery is only one of the minor issues; and the cause of the war, the whole cause, on our part, is the maintenance of the sovereign independence of these States.…

The whole cause of our resistance was and is, the pretension and full determination of the Northern States to use their preponderance in the Federal representation, in order to govern the Southern States for their profit. . Slavery was the immediate occasion–carefully made so by them–it was not the cause. The tariff… would have much more accurately represented, though it did not cover, or exhaust, the real cause of the quarrel. Yet neither tariffs nor slavery, nor both together, could ever have been truly called the cause of the secession and the war. We refuse to accept for a cause any thing… than that truly announced, namely, the sovereign independence of our States. This, indeed, includes both those minor questions, as well as many others yet graver and higher. It includes full power to regulate our trade for our own profit, and also complete jurisdiction over our own social and domestic institutions; but it further involves all the nobler attributes of national, and even of individual life and character. A community which once submits to be schooled, dictated to, legislated for, by any other, soon grows poor in spirit;… its citizens, become a kind of half-men, [and] feel that they have hardly a right to walk in the sun.…

The people of Virginia do not choose to accept that position for themselves and for their children. They choose rather to die. They own a noble country, which their fathers created, exalted, and transmitted to them.… That inheritance we intend to own while we live, and leave intact to those who are to come after us.…

It is right to let foreign nations, and “those whom it may concern,” understand this theory of our independence. Let them understand that, though we are “not fighting for slavery,” we will not allow ourselves to be dictated to in regard to slavery or any other of our internal affairs, not because thatwould diminish our interest in any property, but because it touches our independence.


15 thoughts on “Jefferson Davis on Why the South Fought

  1. Yes, the southern states that declared secession did so because they wanted to. They wanted to no longer be politically, economically, or culturally connected to the USA. In other words, those states wanted independence. And there is Jefferson Davis saying exactly that: “We refuse to accept for a cause any thing… than that truly announced, namely, the sovereign independence of our States.”

      • How I describe the war is as follows:

        The US Civil War was a slave state insurrection that not all the slave states joined and that the federal government put down. The insurrecting states began declaring secession independently — but in communication with each other through secession commissioners — soon after Lincoln was elected President on a slavery containment platform, where slavery would not be officially interfered with by the federal government in the slave states but would be excluded from the federal territories — the frontier and the west.

        The slave states in the deep South, where the sun burns strong in the fields of the white owned plantations, feared losing the nearly $4 billion of property that the black slaves represented to them. Those slave states, with the highest slave population (over 40%), declared secession first, followed by Texas and then by the remaining slave states with over 20% slave population (those slave states with under 20% slave population never declared secession).

        The last batch of states to declare secession did so following the firing on Ft. Sumter, a military installation belonging to the United States of America, by insurrecting forces and following President Lincoln’s subsequent calling up of troops to put down the insurrection. The insurrecting states formed a new government, the Confederate States of America, which the United States of America did not recognize but instead fought and defeated.

        On July 4, 1861 President Lincoln addressed Congress seeking approval for the war effort, and he got it. The war was long and brutal. Confederate troops fought and also captured slaves, fugitive or otherwise. President Lincoln realized that he could enlist former slaves in the war effort and did so. He formed USCT and issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in all of the insurrecting states. The Confederate government engaged in conscription to forcibly draft white men into the Confederate army and refused to consider making slaves soldiers.

        The war ended when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to U.S. General Ulysses Grant at a courthouse in Appomattox and when, not much later, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured. The insurrection was over and, with the good news of the new Constitutional amendments and the bad news of President Lincoln’s assassination, the United States of America was reborn.

      • That is how you describe the war. Exactly. It does not match historical fact.

        So now the Federal government wants to buy all Fords at $100 each you paid thousands are you selling???

        Can you prove Sumter belonged to the United States or is this just your opinion???

        I have accounts of negroes being forced to join the USCT. What say ye about that???

        And West Virginia was fornmed as a slave state.

        Lincoln getting shot was the second best thing that ever happened in this country

  2. Independence is a goal not a reason. Why did those particular states make that decision at all, at that particular time, while stating the particular reasons they stated? And which other states did they invite to join them and why and which did so and which did not? And why did these states join together to form the Confederate States of America?

    • Then preservation of the Union was a goal not a reason.

      To answer your question, the states that made up the Confederates states of America, were rich. The Ferderal government was not willing to let that money slip their hands.

      You just made that point in your previous posts. Do not try to “out slick” me stick to the facts.

      • But the richness was very largely from the value of slaves AND the federal government freed all the slaves destroying that value.

      • You’re right. The goal was preservation of the Union. The reasons were explained at length by President Lincoln in his July 4 1861 address to Congress. Some highlights include:
        () If one State may secede, so may another; and when all shall have seceded none is left to pay the debts.
        () It may well be questioned whether there is to-day a majority of the legally qualified voters of any State, except, perhaps, South Carolina, in favor of disunion.
        () to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion

      • yes and the burden was mostly on the South.

        I don’t know there was quite an effort uwhen Obama came into office. A lot of voters signed the petitions.

        Yes by making war on old men women and children. With the help of the Irish immigrants and Germen mercenaries

    • If Independence is a goal and not a reason, then the same could be said about preserving slavery. It too was a goal and not a reason.
      The reason for secession was the states involved in international trade were the Southern states. As Davis is quoted here, “the pretension and full determination of the Northern States to use their preponderance in the Federal representation, in order to govern the Southern States for their profit.” This was done through the newly passed tariff.
      Seceding however would not preserve slavery because the Union was no direct threat to slavery. Nor were Lincoln and the Republican Party. Lincoln repeatedly stated he had no desire to end slavery where it existed. Slavery was protected by the U.S. Constitution and the federal government had no authority to end slavery anywhere other than Washington city. By seceding, the states lost that protection; Any slaves fleeing the Confederacy to the United States could do so with no Constitutional requirement for their return. The federal fugitive slave laws no longer applied to them.
      The cotton states seceded because they had lost control of the U.S. government. The Northern States were now free “to use their preponderance in the Federal representation, in order to govern the Southern States for their profit.” To escape that they voted to secede. Lincoln promised to protect slavery. He never promised to lower the new tariff. On the contrary, he promised to invade and kill people in order to collect it.
      There was no insurrection of the Southern states. The federal government was prohibited from invading other states of the Union unless such troops were requested by that state’s legislature, or governor, if the legislature wasn’t in session. The Southern states voted to leave the Union just like they had voted to join it. Lincoln admitted invasion was a crime, but he threatened he would do it to collect federal taxes.
      The reason for secession was unequal treatment the states were getting within the union and the authority to do so came from the sovereignty of the states and violations of the terms of the Constitution making it null and void. If states under no circumstances could leave the Union, having a constitution becomes pointless. Even in a marriage the “until death do you part” is predicated on the partners observing their vows. A divorce is not an insurrection. Secession is not insurrection.
      The reason for the war was the “full determination of the Northern States.. to govern the Southern States for their profit.”

  3. The reasons the States of the Confederacy joined together are clearly enumerated and promulgated in the preamble of the Confederate constitution. Please note that “protecting slavery” is not among the enumerated reasons.

  4. Sorry to have offended anyone or George for some foul language. I did not mean to cuss on your site. I think that is what you want me to apologize for…right?

    • Corey glad to see you man up. I will accept your apology because you have stated “Sorry to have offended anyone or George.” let’s not go there again. I try to make this a friendly forum for everyone to post to regardless of their views. After all we are all americans. Right???

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