What is the "historical truth" about why the South fought the Civil War? One certainly won't find it in the Aug. 20 letter written by Roy Williams.
I suggest he read what the South Carolina secession convention had to say about why the state seceded from the Union. On Dec. 24, 1860, the convention adopted the Declaration of Causes of Secession which stated that the reason for secession was that the Northern states had "deliberately broken" the federal compact in the Constitution by repudiating their responsibility to return runaway slaves. It denounced the actions of "the nonslaveholding states" in denying the slaveholders' property rights: "They have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery ... They have encouraged ... our slaves to leave their homes ... A geographical line has been drawn across the Union."
Lincoln's election could not be accepted because "he has declared that `Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free."' Because Lincoln's party will wage war "against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States," the people of South Carolina must secede. (Copies of this document can be obtained from the websites of the South Carolina Historical Society and from the Carl Vincent Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.)
Mr. Williams states that 90 percent of white Southeners had no vested interest in slavery. This is very misleading because this 90 percent figure includes women and young people who did not normally own property. According to the U.S. Census of 1860, 46 percent of families in South Carolina owned slaves, and the population of whites was only 312,830 while slaves numbered 402,541 or 56 percent of the population. This explains the whites' fear of an abolitionist party in the White House.
When one considers the thousands of families whose incomes depended on the plantations such as overseers and merchants, there were many non-slaveholding whites with a vested interest in slavery, and they were not going to give it up without a fight.
Barry Speth, Augusta
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