Revisiting Old Arguments

I often think of old arguments when I'm reading something new – confrontations past –  particularly when I come across new information.  I think about things I evaded or assertions for which I had no response.  As I read today, I thought of one of those times. 

Several weeks ago I was in an argument with a man who kept saying that the South didn't secede from the Union because of slavery.  His argument was that it was only the planter elites who wanted to secede from the Union.  I wasn't sure whether he was correct but I thought (and still do think) that the point was moot.  The planter class and the elected representatives voted to secede and they did so to preserve and expand the institution of slavery.

But I came across a new piece of information today that spoke to that issue.  In Battle Cry of Freedom James McPherson writes of the secession movement or what he calls "the counter-revolution:"

"Although none of these conventions exhibited the unity of South Carolina's, their average vote in favor of secession was 80 percent.  This figure was probably a fair reflection of white opinion in those six states.  Except in Texas, the conventions did not submit their ordinances to the voters for ratification  This led to charges that a disunion conspiracy acted against the will of the people.  But in fact the main reason for non-submission was a desire to avoid delay.  The voters had just elected delegates who had made their positions clear in public statements; another election seemed superfluous.  The Constitution of 1787 had been ratified by state conventions, not by popular vote; withdrawal of that ratification by similar conventions satisfied a wish for legality and symmetry.  In Texas the voters endorsed secession by a margin of three to one; there is little reason to believe that the result would have been different in any of the other six states."

There's always something new to learn.  Knowledge of a topic is never complete.  I wish I could go back and use this gem, but that's okay.  There will be other opportunities.