Bold and thought provoking.
That being said, Mr. Adams' polemical work is not completely convincing.
The first problem is that while he footnotes much of what he says, there are some fairly controversial assertions that he does not. Another problem is that he hardly tackles the very explicit statements from Davis, Stephens, The Declaration of causes of secession for Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas.
The blatant statements of the reason for secession being slavery contained therein can be explained as political propaganda, much like the Bush adminstration's reasons for invading Iraq. Adams hints at this fact but does not pursue it.
A huge problem, one that made me almost want to give the book 1 star, was his blatantly deceptive selective quoting.
On pg. 95, Adams quotes an 1861 editorial in the New Orleans Daily Crescent as saying:
" They know that it is their import trade that draws from the people's pockets sixty or seventy millions of dollars per annum, in the shape of duties, to be expended mainly in the North, and in the protection and encouragement of Northern interests.... These are the reasons why these people do not wish the South to secede from the Union. They are enraged at the prospect of being despoiled of the rich feast upon which they have so long fed and fattened, and which they were just getting ready to enjoy with still greater gout and gusto. They are as mad as hornets because the prize slips them just as they are ready to grasp it."
Problem is, the part in between "interests" and "These are" is critical, and runs contrary to Adams' thesis.Read more ›
Again, the Morrill tariff passed three months AFTER seven states had already left. They could have blocked it, but they left. The tariff of 1857, the existing tariff at the time, had bipartisan support. The delegation from South Carolina voted for it. It was the lowest tariff in two decades.
If you think don't think the root cause of secession was slavery and slavery extension, I implore you to go to your library and look through some old southern newspapers of the era -- like the Charleston Mercury. Or maybe just take Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephen's word for it:
"The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relation to our peculiar institution -- African slavery as it exists among us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. THIS WAS THE IMMEDIATE CAUSE OF THE LATE RUPTURE AND PRESENT REVOLUTION." - Alexander Stephens, March 1861.
"The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution -- African slavery as it exists amongst us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew.Read more ›