The Civil War Was Not Fought To Protect The “Right” To Own Human Beings.

It Was Fought To Protect The Notion That Black People Were Not Human At All.

Feb 10, 2016 · 4 min read

By David Grace (

Two questions divided the country and sparked the Civil War.

The First Question

The first issue was not, “Is human slavery right or wrong?” but rather: “Are Black people really human at all?”

In 1861 the states of the Confederacy did not have legalized slavery. They had legalized black slavery.

If in 1850 a slaver had put ashore on some island off the Irish or Scottish coasts or on one of the Greek Islands or someplace in the vicinity of the coasts of Italy or Croatia and had captured a boatload of white people and sailed them into Nachez or New Orleans and tried to put them on the slave-market auction block they would have been, if not arrested, at least stopped and the “slaves” would have been released.*


Because both Southerners and Northerners believed that white people were human beings and were thus entitled to human rights, and that under both the laws of the states and also under the U.S. Constitution white people could not be slaves. Period.

But, Southerners believed that black people were not “real” humans, that they were sub-humans, a breed apart, like some tribe of advanced gorillas, smart enough for brute labor but not really human at all. To the Civil-War-era southerners black people were merely a clever breed of farm animals.

How else could those God-fearing, supposed Christian people troop into church on Sunday after Sunday and praise Jesus and his teachings and then walk out into the sunlight and passionately argue that it should be perfectly legal for a white man to buy a black woman, rape her, rape her children, and then kill them all at his whim?

Losing the Civil War did not disabuse most Southerners from believing, deep down, that black people were not really human. Why else would they insist that black people could not be allowed in their hotels, restaurants, buses or schools?

How else can you explain how people who supposedly believed in Christ’s teachings would participate in, condone, or turn a blind eye to the offhand killing of black people for the “crime” of looking at a white woman the “wrong way” or being “uppity”?

That conduct becomes understandable when you realize that these racists felt that Christ’s teachings did not apply to non-humans, no matter how trainable or clever those subhumans might be.

If your victim is subhuman you are morally free to do anything to them that you could do to a cow or a waffle iron.

By the way, that viewpoint is not all very different from how the Nazis thought about Jews.

The Second Question

The second dispute underlying the Civil War was:

“Does a political subdivision have the right to legalize activities that are illegal under the laws of the larger body of which it is a member?”

The Southern states were part of a national political body. Nevertheless they claimed that they had the right to be immune to any national laws with which they fundamentally disagreed.

If that were a valid principal then a county would be free to legalize practices that were illegal under state law and a city would be entitled to legalize activities that were illegal under both county and state law.

Under that theory a county heavily populated by pedophiles could legalize marriages and sexual intercourse between adult men and ten-year-old little girls. If that were a valid theory then each little town or city would be free to legalize dueling, rape, murder, child pornography, slavery or any other activity that a majority of its citizens wished to be free to engage in.

The Southern states went to war to protect their so-called right to officially categorize black people as farm animals and to be exempt from any contrary position the Supreme Court or Congress might ever take.

Every time I hear about “States’ Rights” or the nobility of the Confederate Cause I remind myself what, at their core, both those ideas were really about.

–David Grace

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  • *In December 1860 a newspaper in Nachez, Mississippi reported an incident where a man obtained a white girl from an orphanage in New York, dyed her hair black and her skin yellow, and tried to take her to Nachez on a riverboat to sell her as a slave. His deception was discovered and the man was locked up in his state room until the riverboat docked in Nachez at which point the girl was placed in a local orphanage. It was not reported what happened to the kidnapper.

Racism & Immigration Columns By David Grace

Columns on Race, Racism, Discrimination & Immigration


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Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 17 novels and over 200 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

Racism & Immigration Columns By David Grace

Columns on Race, Racism, Discrimination & Immigration

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