What causes (yes, that reads as plural) motivated Southerners to support the Confederacy

Posted on August 11, 2011 by


Ever since I found this paragraph (I’ve used it in two blog posts, the most recent being here), I’ve not been able to let it go easily.

Though I’m not saying these motivations alone [see below] are to be considered the end-all list, I do believe they form the significant categories for the motivations.  When written, I think the border staters had an accurate grasp on the reasons why many Southerners got behind the Confederacy… and why wouldn’t these border staters have such an intimate understanding? After all, these people were in a better position to understand Southerners, as many defined themselves as Southern. Even disconnected from the context in which the statement was made (again, refer back to the older blog posts…. this was part of a counter-argument to Lincoln’s idea of freeing and colonizing the slaves), it is a valuable statement to be considered in the effort to better grasp the motivations of those Southerners who supported the Confederacy.

The rebellion derives its strength from the union of all classes in the insurgent States; and while that union lasts the war will never end until they are utterly exhausted. We know that at the inception of these troubles Southern society was divided, and that a large portion, perhaps a majority, were opposed to Secession. Now the great mass of Southern people are united. To discover why they are so we must glance at Southern society, and notice the classes into which it has been divided, and which still distinguish it. They are in arms, but not for the same objects; they are moved to a common end, but by different and even inconsistent reasons. The leaders, which comprehend what was previously known as the State Rights party, and is much the lesser class, seek to break down national independence and set up State domination. With them it is a war against nationality. The other class is fighting, as it supposes, to maintain and preserve the rights of property and domestic safety, which it has been made to believe are assailed by this Government. This latter class are not disunionists per se; they are so only because they have been made to believe that this Administration is inimical to their rights, and is making war on their domestic institutions. As long as these two classes act together they will never assent to peace. The policy, then, to be pursued is obvious. The former class will never be reconciled, but the latter may be. Remove their apprehensions, satisfy them that no harm is intended to them and their institutions; that this Government is not making war on their rights of property, but is simply defending its legitimate authority, and they will gladly return to their allegiance as soon as the pressure of military domination imposed by the Confederate authority is removed from them.

Of course, they only mentioned those who bore arms for the Confederacy willingly. The unwilling and/or reluctant are addressed in posts such as the one from Wednesday.