I wrote my first letter to the editor before I was ten, and I’ve been writing them about every ten years since. Here’s my latest. The Washington Post column I was responding to seems to be no longer on the paper’s web site or anywhere else on the Internet, for that matter.
Like my previous letters, this one was not published.
Mr. Brag Bowling [Civil War 150, “No Abolitionist He,” Mar. 4] offers the South’s rejection of the Corwin Amendment as evidence that it wasn’t fighting to preserve slavery but “for a higher purpose, their political independence.” (The 1861 Corwin Amendment would have prevented any future Constitutional amendment from allowing Congress to end slavery in any state.)
While many Southerners didn’t trust Northern promises to uphold slavery in states where it existed, the South seceded over the Republicans’ promise to stop slavery’s spread into the nation’s considerable western territories. The territories had been the national slavery debate’s political focus from the time of the Northwest Ordinance (1787) to the Missouri Compromise (1820), the Wilmot Proviso (1847), the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), and Bleeding Kansas (1854 – 1858). One need only peruse Donald Reynolds‘s excellent book Editors Make War: Southern Newspapers in the Secession Crisis to get an idea of how quickly the South turned to secession as a result of the Republicans’ 1860 electoral success and their commitment to stop slavery’s spread.
I’m a Virginian who, like Mr. Bowling, had forefathers who fought for the Confederacy, but I cannot honor – much less reinvent – the Confederacy’s motive.