Kirkpatrick Sale


Kirkpatrick Sale, director of the Middlebury Institute, discusses his article “The Sesquicentennial Is Upon Us;” why “War of Southern Secession” and “War Between the States” are more apt descriptions and should be used in place of “Civil War;” the tariff revenue at stake in the fight over Fort Sumter, which newly-independent South Carolina claimed as its own; how Northern industrialists and the Republican Party planned to preserve the union in order to transform the country into a major industrial power, eager to expand westward; how the Emancipation Proclamation was used to fill the Union Army’s ranks and stir up Southern slave rebellions (it did not effect Northern slaves); and the North’s failure to integrate newly freed slaves and compensate slave owners, dooming the South’s economy.

MP3 here. (18:47)

Kirkpatrick Sale is the author of many books, including Secession: How Vermont and All the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire. He is the director of the Middlebury Institute and has written for The Nation, Counterpunch and Mother Jones.

28 thoughts on “Kirkpatrick Sale”

  1. Damn, Antiwar Radio is on a roll lately. The Kirkpatrick Sale, Ron Paul, Anthony Gregory, and Jesse Trentadue interviews are all top-notch. Any chance of getting Alexander Cockburn on?

  2. I wish Mr. Sale all the luck in getting Vermont out of what the Union has become. Contributing to empire, imperialism, death, and American exeptionalism run rampant, is not my cup of tea either. But revising history to provide justification for seceding in the manner he has is nothing but lying. He's judging Northerners as though they had a neo, 21st century mindset and claiming the South had reasons beyond demanding their freedom to deny an entire race of all of its freedoms. Everything else mentioned today or then — sectionalism, tariffs, state's rights all came back to what the main cause for secession and war was– the South's refusal to give up slavery. They wanted slavery, they wanted to expand it, and you didn't need to be alive then or today to know the morality of that stance. The Emancipation Proclamation did not affect northern slaves because by the constitution no president had the right to free slaves within the Union itself, which is why he called in every favor he had to get the 13th amendment passed and then signed it himself, something no previous president had done with any prior constitutional amendment. Lincoln was actually a moderate on the issue who became almost radical by the war's end. He did however believe the constitution demanded that he keep the Union together. The South would have been much better off staying in and under Lincoln than it did in leaving and electing Jefferson Davis.
    It gets very tiresome reading the people who, 150 years after the fact, come up with all the different 'reasons' why the South really was laid to waste. I have no desire to defend the March to the Sea (or prosecute Fort Pillow for that matter– what happened, happened) but the South was willing to fight a war to keep a race of men and women in chains and you can bring up all the bogus BS you want, but if you read source material from that era, the reason for the Civil War is obvious. Sale should stick to arguments pertaining to today rather than attemting to rewrite what actually happened. Maybe next time he can offer us all a copy of Birth of a Nation – or barring that — The Clansmen–to bolster his argument.

    1. Thank you Mr. Cormany for the information on Lincoln's role in fighting for the 13th Amendment. I was not awar of that.

      As I try to sort this all out, I always wonder why slavery wasn't dealt a death blow by the simple act of repealing the Fugitive Slave Act? If the North had the political will and power to impose tariffs that were unpopular in the South, and then to fight the bloddiest of war up to that time, why did it not have the political power and will to repeal the Fugitive Slave Act? I haven't seen a satisfactory answer to that question from those who are critical of the views of Sales, Woods and DiLorenzo.

      1. The Fugitive Slave Act had actually been on the books since 1793 as Article 4, Section 2 of the Constitution, inserted by two representatives from South Carolina, called for the return of all fugitive slaves. But it provided for nobody to actually enforce it, as in go after the escapees and return them. Private bounty hunters became the means by which such slaves were caught and returned. Many states or local areas passed numerouspersonal liberty laws that discouraged returning of slaves by forbidding local law enforcement to do the returning or help hired slave hunters, demanding that no slave be returned until he had a trial by jury, some passed laws that made declaring one's self a bounty hunter an illegal act. Almost every nothern state increasingly ignored the law to the point that by the 1840s if a slave crossed the Ohio River he considered himself free. Many set up residence in Northern states and did not worry about being sent back south.

        1. The amended Fugitive Slave Act was part of the Compromise of 1850, the last, large attempt to forestall a war over slavery. The territory of California petitioned to enter the north as a free state, which would for the first time give the North more votes in the Senate (theoretically, as many Northern Democrats voted with the south) and predictably the South threatened to secede. Henry Clay as he had several times before initiated the Compromise which was a series of resolutions voted on one at a time. The North was able to outlaw slave trading in Washington DC and California entered the union as a free state. The slave states in return received concessions which made slavery legal in Texas and the passage of a new amended Fugitive Slave law.

          1. Wikiepedia describes the new Fugitvve Slave law: "the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 made any Federal marshal or other official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave liable to a fine of $1,000. Law-enforcement officials everywhere now had a duty to arrest anyone suspected of being a runaway slave on no more evidence than a claimant's sworn testimony of ownership. The suspected slave could not ask for a jury trial or testify on his or her own behalf. In addition, any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was subject to six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Officers who captured a fugitive slave were entitled to a bonus or promotion for their work. Slave owners only needed to supply an affidavit to a Federal marshal to capture an escaped slave. Since any suspected slave was not eligible for a trial this led to many free blacks being conscripted into slavery as they had no rights in court and could not defend themselves against accusations."

          2. Because of the makeup of Congress, it was considered impossible to repeal the law without destroying the Compromise and throughout the 1800's even as Civil War was becoming more and more obvious to most as the only way this matter would ever be resolved, most legislaters wanted that to happen on someone else's watch. The Wisconsin Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, but was over ruled by the Supreme Court, made up of 7 southerners and 2 northerners, who further declared in the infamous Dred Scott decision a few yeas later that because a slave had been taken by his owner to a free state and lived as a free man, even for a long period of time – years in Scott's case– he was still a slave. it further stated that Negroes had NO rights that any white man was obligated to respect or honor. Between the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott decision, both of which were highly praised and celebrated in the South, more Notherners became abolitionists who were uninterested or mildly sympathetic or unsympathetic before that, and the South began to decidedly lose the PR war in other parts of the world.

          3. An attempt to repeal the Law in Congress in 1864 – with only 1 border or southern state member seated (Andrew Johnson) was defeated, which shows how much the Democratic party was aligned with the South, even 3 years into the war. Most, though not all by any means, protested the war, using the threat of free black labor to win the votes of poor whites in urban areas who were told they were at risk of losing their jobs, and also because of blatant racism as was evidenced by comments that can be read in the Lincoln–Douglas debates in which Douglas constantly hammered Lincoln with anti-negro epithets and accused him of wanting mixed marriages (THE bogeyman for most whites of that era), special rights for blacks (equal rights under the law in the deep southern parts of Illinois)and said that Lincoln favored blacks to serve on juries, become lawyers and judges and run for public office. Privately, Lincoln agreed with most of that, but publicly at that point in time all Lincoln would say was that while he did not consider the black man his equal in intelligence or social standing, he considered him his and everybody else's equal in his right to earn his own living and that no man had the right to own another man. Through interaction with Fredrick Douglass and many radical Republicans such as Sumner and Seward he began a change that by 1864 saw him as almost the radical the South saw him as in 1860.

          4. Article 4, section 2 was not finally declared null until the 13th amendment which outlawed slavery in all states and territories of the United States and made illegal all laws that pertained to the perpetuating of slavery.
            Sorry for the length, but it wasn't lack of will so much as lack of votes. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was despised by much of the North but as they eventually concluded, the only way to finally be done with the entire matter was a Constitutional Amendment. And that barely passed and wouldn't have passed had not Lincoln called in literally every favor from every border state politician and every member of the Illinois delegation south of Springfield and anybody else who owed him one.

          5. You have given me a lot to digest here. I would like to get back to you on this.

            Thanks for all the information.

  3. The root cause of the war was slavery, which the south had no intention of ending. Indeed while in the union it did all it could to expand it as much as possible.

      1. Fact # 1; The south expanded slavery. Nine new slave states were added by the south from the end of the revolutionary war until the civil war. The south was trying to create slavery in Kansas when the war began. The north went in the opposite direction.

        Fact # 2; No southern state ever ended slavery or made any effort to ever do so.

        Fact # 3; The south never converted slavery to serfdom.

        Fact # 4; Only slave states joined the Confederacy.

        Fact # 5; If slavery wasn't the Confederacy's purpose, why didn't it issue its own emancipation proclamation? It would have eliminated a powerful propaganda tool from the north and might very well have resulted in foreign recognition from European governments.

        Fact # 6; The slave power aristocracy was the most powerful and wealthy group in America at this time. They did what they wanted.

        Mind telling me Mike, when exactly the south was going to end slavery?

  4. Kirkpatrick Sale is a revisionist historian. Good for him. Like Thomas DiLorenzo, Sale squares off against the mainstream, "court" historians. These people are devoted to deifying Lincoln and the North, often to the detriment of truth.

    I agree in principle with both nullification and secession.

  5. The new question is now that slavery is non-existant, is secession legitimate? No modern-day secessionist advocates such a position because of slavery. Why isn't modern-day secession justified?

  6. The importance of revisionist history is its role in delegitimizing the empire–a just cause. Modernday anti-southern bigotry and politcal correctness should not be allowed to detract from this mission.

  7. Cormany: you just asserted without evidence that it was slavery was the utmost cause…I'm skeptical about the court historian position on this.

    1. As well you should be. The idea that the racist North would sacrifice 300,000 of their own men to to rescue Southern slaves is laughable. The war was over power and money, as all wars are. Northerners were whipped into a fury over being "attacked" at Fort Sumter and to "save the Union".

      I guess even ole dis-Honest Abe must have started believing his own propaganda near the end of the war. I guess he needed the 13th amendment to free the slaves so he could complete his plans of shipping them all back to Africa. Oh yes, Abe was an active member of the "Colonization Society" up until his death.

      Nevermind that slavery was ended peacefully just about everywhere else. We had to have a war that killed 600,000+ people, destroyed half the country, and gave us a powerful, centralized, monopoly of power on the Potomac. There were all kinds of alternatives. They could have let the South go, boycotted them, and gotten England and France to go along. The South would have been sunk unless they ended slavery.

      1. It's true that could have happened, if you have read any of the books and magazines of the time, do you think it really would have? This was something that built for close to 100 years. The South was not going to give up slavery. I ask any of you who think a peaceable solution could have been reached to read every one of the Articles of Secession by each Confederate State. None mentions anything but slavery.
        And again, yes, Lincoln at one time believed in colonization but by the middle of the war never brought it up. The South wanted war as much as the North. If they had just been allowed to leave and boycotted, the South would have attacked somewhere because they wanted slavery to expand. To say otherwise is to put a contemporary spin on what happened at the time. Don't apply today's thinking to the events of the nineteenth century. And yes, you could say the war was about power and money. The South wanted the power to own other people. They left the union. Many people, including consulted lawyers said they could not do this unless the entire Union was dissolved, so there was war. To make it sound like it was the North and the North only is to listen to only Southerners who were defeated. The Big Bad Yanks attacked us. That's not how it was played out in 1861 by a long shot.

  8. It's real easy to sit here 150 years later and say there were all kinds of alternatives. There weren't. What do you think they tired to do for 30 years with compromise after compromise. After 1856 only a war was going to settle the issue. And while you may not think it was worth fighting, and I may even have my doubts — ask any black man or woman about it.
    In 1861, there was no dbout in the South's mind they'd win any war and in facct the first battle of Bull run was fought because the Southern army had advanced so close to Washington DC that it was in danger.
    btw – i've read DiLorenzo and rarely seen more lies and made up crap in a supposedly researched book. He's a Lincoln hater and a Southern apologist. Which is certainly his right and any man's, but to expect him to write any kind of objective look at the topic or the history of the time is a fool's wish. Lincoln was not perfect by any means, but he was not evil by any means either. And he could change and grow, a trait that DiLorenzo never acknowledges once. If Lincoln said something at age 20, that was his opinion for life according to DiLorenzo.
    But people like you guys will fight this war forever. It probably would have been best to let the southern states just leave and the hell with them.

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