Apostles of Disunion

Apostles of Disunion

Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War

Book - 2001 | 1st pbk. ed.
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Univ of Virginia

In late 1860 and early 1861, state-appointed commissioners traveled the length and breadth of the slave South carrying a fervent message in pursuit of a clear goal: to persuade the political leadership and the citizenry of the uncommitted slave states to join in the effort to destroy the Union and forge a new Southern nation.

Directly refuting the neo-Confederate contention that slavery was neither the reason for secession nor the catalyst for the resulting onset of hostilities in 1861, Charles B. Dew finds in the commissioners' brutally candid rhetoric a stark white supremacist ideology that proves the contrary. The commissioners included in their speeches a constitutional justification for secession, to be sure, and they pointed to a number of political "outrages" committed by the North in the decades prior to Lincoln's election. But the core of their argument—the reason the right of secession had to be invoked and invoked immediately—did not turn on matters of constitutional interpretation or political principle. Over and over again, the commissioners returned to the same point: that Lincoln's election signaled an unequivocal commitment on the part of the North to destroy slavery and that emancipation would plunge the South into a racial nightmare.

Dew's discovery and study of the highly illuminating public letters and speeches of these apostles of disunion—often relatively obscure men sent out to convert the unconverted to the secessionist cause--have led him to suggest that the arguments the commissioners presented provide us with the best evidence we have of the motives behind the secession of the lower South in 1860–61.

Addressing topics still hotly debated among historians and the public at large more than a century after the Civil War, Dew challenges many current perceptions of the causes of the conflict. He offers a compelling and clearly substantiated argument that slavery and race were absolutely critical factors in the outbreak of war—indeed, that they were at the heart of our great national crisis.

Book News
As tensions between the northern and the southern United States rose in late 1860 and early 1861, five of the southern states appointed commissioners to other slave states in order to encourage secession. Dew (social sciences, Williams College) explores the arguments of these men to their peers as a window into the real motivations of the secession of the South. He debunks persistent arguments, first advanced by the former vice president of the Confederacy, that the Civil War was fought over "great principles" of states rights versus federal centralism. Instead he finds that these men had white supremacy and slavery at the very dark heart of their arguments and their motivations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Publisher: Charlottesville ; London : University Press of Virginia, c2001.
Edition: 1st pbk. ed.
ISBN: 9780813921044
Characteristics: x, 124, [1] p. ; 24 cm.


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robhoma Jun 13, 2014

If you need to write a paper on why the South seceded from the Union, here's your book for some quotes. In answering the age old question, 'Did the Civil War come because of slavery or states rights,' the author says it was none of the above. The South seceded from the Union for fear of racial equality, race wars, and racial amalgamation.


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