The Lost Cause1 The Lost Cause is the name commonly given to a literary and intellectual movement that sought to reconcile the traditional Southern white society to the defeat of the Confederate States of America in the Civil War. White Southerners sought consolation in attributing their loss to factors beyond their control and to betrayals of their heroes and cause. Those who contributed to the movement tended to portray the Confederacy's cause as noble and most of the Confederacy's leaders as exemplars of old-fashioned chivalry, defeated by the Union armies not through superior military skill, but by overwhelming force.
Yeats wrote his short poem immediately following the catastrophe of World War I, but his thesis of a great, cataclysmic event is universal and timeless. It is probably safe to say that the original impetus of the Civil War was set in motion when a Dutch trader offloaded a cargo of African slaves at Jamestown, Va.
Of course there were other things, too. For instance, by the eve of the Civil War the sectional argument had become so far advanced that a significant number of Southerners were convinced that Yankees, like Negroes, constituted an entirely different race of people from themselves. It is unclear who first put forth this curious interpretation of American history, but just as the great schism burst upon the scene it was subscribed to by no lesser Confederate luminaries than president Jefferson Davis himself and Admiral Raphael Semmes, of CSS Alabama fame, who asserted that the North was populated by descendants of the cold Puritan Roundheads of Oliver Cromwell—who had overthrown and executed the king of England in —while others of the class were forced to flee to Holland, where they also caused trouble, before finally settling at Plymouth Rock, Mass.
How beliefs such as this came to pass in the years between and reveals the astonishing capacity of human nature to confound traditional a posteriori deduction in an effort to justify what had become by then largely unjustifiable.
But there is blame enough for all to go around. From that first miserable boatload of Africans in Jamestown, slavery spread to all the settlements, and, after the Revolutionary War, was established by laws in the states.
But by the turn of the 19th century, slavery was confined to the South, where the economy was almost exclusively agricultural. For a time it appeared the practice was on its way to extinction. Then along came Eli Whitney with his cotton gin, suddenly making it feasible to grow short-staple cotton that was fit for the great textile mills of England and France.
But beneath this great wealth and prosperity, America seethed. Whenever you have two people—or peoples—joined in politics but doing diametrically opposing things, it is almost inevitable that at some point tensions and jealousies will break out. In the industrial North, there was a low, festering resentment that eight of the first 11 U.
For their part, the agrarian Southerners harbored lingering umbrage over the internal improvements policy propagated by the national government, which sought to expand and develop roads, harbors, canals, etc.
These were the first pangs of sectional dissension. Then there was the matter of the Tariff of Abominations, which became abominable for all concerned. This inflammatory piece of legislation, passed with the aid of Northern politicians, imposed a tax or duty on imported goods that caused practically everything purchased in the South to rise nearly half-again in price.
This was because the South had become used to shipping its cotton to England and France and in return receiving boatloads of inexpensive European goods, including clothing made from its own cotton. However, as years went by, the North, particularly New England, had developed cotton mills of its own—as well as leather and harness manufactories, iron and steel mills, arms and munitions factories, potteries, furniture makers, silversmiths and so forth.
And with the new tariff putting foreign goods out of financial reach, Southerners were forced to buy these products from the North at what they considered exorbitant costs.
Smart money might have concluded it would be wise for the South to build its own cotton mills and its own manufactories, but its people were too attached to growing cotton. Later, South Carolina legislators acted on this assertion and defied the federal government to overrule them, lest the state secede.
This set off the Nullification Crisis, which held in theory or wishful thinking that a state could nullify or ignore any federal law it held was not in its best interests.
The crisis was defused only when President Andrew Jackson sent warships into Charleston Harbor—but it also marked the first time a Southern state had threatened to secede from the Union. Though the tariff question remained an open sore from its inception in right up to the Civil War, many modern historians have dismissed the impact it had on the growing rift between the two sections of the country.
But any careful reading of newspapers, magazines or correspondence of the era indicates that here is where the feud began to fester into hatred. Some Southern historians in the past have argued this was the root cause of the Civil War.
Not only did the tariff issue raise for the first time the frightening specter of Southern secession, but it also seemed to have marked a mazy kind of dividing line in which the South vaguely started thinking of itself as a separate entity—perhaps even a separate country.
All the resenting and seething naturally continued to spill over into politics. The North, with immigrants pouring in, vastly outnumbered the South in population and thus controlled the House of Representatives.
That is untilwhen Missouri applied for statehood and anti-slavery forces insisted it must be free. That held the thing together for longer than it deserved.
In plain acknowledgement that slavery was an offensive practice, Congress in banned the importation of African slaves. Nevertheless there were millions of slaves living in the South, and their population continued growing.
Over the years this group became stronger and by the s had turned into a full-fledged movement, preaching abolition from pulpits and podiums throughout the North, publishing pamphlets and newspapers, and generally stirring up sentiments both fair and foul in the halls of Congress and elsewhere.
At first the abolitionists concluded that the best solution was to send the slaves back to Africa, and they actually acquired land in what is now Liberia, returning a small colony of ex-bondsmen across the ocean. This did not sit well with the churchgoing Southerners, who were now subjected to being called unpleasant and scandalous names by Northerners they did not even know.Please purchase a subscription to continue reading.
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Evidence That Slavery Was the Cause of the Civil War: One way to determine the cause of the Civil War, is to examine the primary sources from that period to see if any explicit causes were cited. The Civil War began after several states seceded from the Union in late and early Apr 12, · Slavery was the Civil War's cause despite revisionists saying otherwise.
Historian Adam Goodheart, who has a new book on the critical year of "" said he thinks part of the reason for that revisionism is the difficulty some Southerners have in believing their ancestors fought for slavery.
The Civil War Home Page brings together thousands of pages of Civil War material including information on Battles, Documents, Associations, Letters & Diaries, Research Records, Biographical Information, Photos, Reenacting and Unit Information. Less than 40 years after the Civil War, General John G.
Haskell, the president of the Kansas Historical Society, described slavery in western Missouri as “a more domestic than commercial institution,” in which the “social habits were those of the farm and not the plantation.”. The Constitution left many questions about slavery unanswered, in particular, the question of slavery’s status in any new territory acquired by the U.S.
The failure to deal forthrightly and comprehensively with slavery in the Constitution guaranteed future conflict over the issue and was ultimately one of the primary catalysts for war.