Civil War Savings?

Could We have Saved Money by Buying Out Slave Owners Rather than Fighting the Civil War? Cecil says yes, but he’s forgetting two important points: one, the South might not have agreed to buying their slaves–although since slaves were property, the Takings Clause* might have been interpreted to apply, permitting the government to seize the property for “public use” and give fair compensation–and two, more importantly, the Civil War was not fought solely on the issue of slavery. Who can say what might have happened if in, say, 1858, Lincoln had offered a plan to buy slaves instead of giving his House Divided speech. (Yes, I’m aware he wasn’t President at that point.) While slavery was a major factor in the Civil War that did happen, we can’t know if without that tinder there was enough to light the fire of civil war. But it bears considering: the worst outcome would have been buying the slaves and then still fighting the war.
What follows is a long digression about the constitutionality of applying the Takings Clause to slaves.
*from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” From Wikipedia: “The property need not actually be used by the public; rather, it must be used or disposed of in such a manner as to benefit the public welfare or public interest. One exception that restrains the federal government is that the property must be used in exercise of a government’s enumerated powers.” For a forced slave buy to be constitutional, the government might interpret the Commerce Clause to say that the slave trade is an interstate trade (and is inextricably linked with interstate trade) and thus falls under federal jurisdiction. A more interesting Constitutional argument would be that the Full Faith and Credit clause in Article IV (“Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.” Source: US Constitution) gives Congress the power to legislate on any issue on which states’ laws disagree, and then they could somehow order the taking of the slaves under the Takings Clause. (The major flaw in this argument is the words “by general Laws”; meaning that a specific resolution of which law supersedes which is not in Congress’ power. However, this is a question of phrasing and legislative language.) It might seem that this would violate the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision of 1857, in which it was ruled that slaves, as property, could not be taken from their owners without due process of law, but acts of Congress are generally considered to constitute due process, unless a court rules otherwise.

So one could argue that even if the South did not agree to have their slaves taken from them, the Takings Clause could justify it. But this would cause more resentment in the Southern states, for having their way of life removed from them. They could still well fight a war.

As I said ages ago, it wouldn’t have worked because the slavelords had, to stifle their consciences, developed the theory that keeping blacks enslaved was their affirmative Christian duty. I doubt that anything but a crushing military defeat could have broken the system.

As I said ages ago, the Civil War was fought solely on the issue of slavery.

Most Southerners did not own any slaves and their “way of life” had no more to do with slavery than the typical Northerner’s did (which is to say, not none, but not so much directly, either).

Would you fight to protect a “way of life” which is only really available to the wealthiest segment of your society anyway? Probably not. But you probably would fight, or support the fight, if your homeland was invaded.

Then why did they fire first?

Are you imagining that nothing prior to the bombardment of Sumter constituted an act of war?

A prisoner from Andersonville tells the story of how, when the camp was being evacuated to get the prisoners further from the front line, the train carrying them stopped in a small town to take on water. A barefoot, obviously half-starved white beggar walked slowly up to the baggage car carrying the captives; he stood there and asked, “Why do you-all want to take away our niggers?”

People have been doing exactly that throughout recorded history.

Seven states seceding and seizing all federal property before Lincoln took office? Yes, I’d call that a fact of war. And shooting first.