The Counterrevolution of Slavery – Manisha Sinha

Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina

This is an excellent book that delves deep into the antebellum South Carolina planters’ continual moves to increase the power of slave owners and defeat democracy both in their state and on the national stage.  By using the slave owner’s own words to define their intent and actions she makes the point even more clear, as they did not mince words. They had their position and they meant it.

After the war, there was a sort of gentleman’s agreement between the sides that the North would not press the point about slavery if the South admitted it was just as well they lost. This might have had its uses in the past, but for the last hundred years historians for the South have polished the image of the rebels that some can contend that the South was fighting for limited government without being instantly being called out for their error.

It is far past time to call things as they were, and state that without slavery and the strident defenders of it who were eager to divide the country, we could have been spared a bloody civil war.  And of all the slave states, the South Carolina planters were the most extreme, most eager to boost and spread slavery, and the most eager to form a slave nation.

South Carolina was the most uniformly ultra section of the country, but that didn’t keep them from repressing unionist opposition by gerrymander, fraud, and violence.  There was a sincere, generally supported resumption of the illegal slave trade in the state in the 1850s.  When slavers were caught, juries refused to convict and the blacks were unlawfully taken out of custody and sold into slavery.

The book ranges across the pre-war decades making a number of points, but even as a student of the period and one that recognizes the ultimate cause of the war, the author concludes with a powerful statement of how we have been blind to the obvious:

“Historians, like contemporaries, have long noted that an overwhelming majority of South Carolinians were for secession.  But a majority of South Carolinians had nothing to do with secession or the glorification of human bondage.  A majority of South Carolinians in 1860 were slaves.”