Online Work

Online Etymology Dictionary
The Sciolist
Slavery in the North
Civil War Writing

Civil War Causes

It's often said that the American Civil War was entirely and only about slavery. Is there another view?

Yankee Canards
Was the ante-bellum South a primitive, backwards, illiterate, violent culture?

Numbers and significance of the Southern mulatto population

Northern Racism
De Tocqueville observed that "race prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known"

Slavery as History
How can you make an honest inquiry into American slavery without understanding the mindset of slave-owners? How can you do that without being yourself a racist?

Rebel View
Early 19th century American politics and political culture as it was seen by many Southerners

Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the greatest writer in American political history. Writers are great, in part, because of their ability to disguise what they really intend.

Lincoln and Race
"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races."

Thaddeus Stevens
The life and times of Pennsylvania's fiery anti-Southern Congressman

Sidelights on Christiana
The Christiana Riot of 1851 is sometimes described at the first skirmish of the Civil War

1860 Election
Even if all the Democrats had united behind one candidate, the Northern regional ticket would have won

The wire-pulling over the Morrill tariff bill in 1860 showed the party of the abolitionists cynically using a legitimate government mechanism to gain power in a presidential election.

Legal Issues
Secession was legal under the Constitution, based on its ratification by the states in 1787 and 1788

Cornerstone Speech
Alexander Stephens "Cornerstone Speech" in context.

Upper South
"States rights" is dismissed as a red herring argument, yet the Upper South states seem to have left the Union for this reason.

What Cost Union?
Lincoln saved the union, but at a terrible cost to America's democracy and culture of freedom.


Up from History
The evolving historical view of the American Civil War.

Soldiers and War
Responding to the slander against Southern military effort.

Why the South Lost
Was Northern victory inevitable?

War Effort
The South put forth a tremendous effort for independence.

The Southern Press
Journalism and Southern civil liberties.

An examination of the myth of massive Southern desertion.

A Closer Look
Desertion by the numbers; case studies North and South.

Ella Lonn
The original study of desertion in the Civil War.

Southern conscription was the first attempt to create a modern military system.

Draft of 1862
An overlooked draft in the North that was underway almost simultaneously with the first rebel conscription.

Albert B. Moore
An important source for the "South against the South" thesis.

The Lincoln Administration's crackdown on Maryland.

Occupied Maryland
A sampling of federal documents dealing with martial law in Maryland.

Maryland Peace Party
A pamphlet from the anti-government forces in Maryland.

Habeas Corpus
The suspension of Habeas Corpus in the North by the Lincoln administration during the war.

A Northern newspaper editor fights the administration after it closes down his press in response to anti-government articles.

"Keystone Confederates"
Some Pennsylvanians fought for the South during the Civil War.


Southern Populists
"You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars you both."

Coatesville Lynching
Zach Walker was burned alive by a white mob in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

York Riots
A little-known but violent 1960s race riot in York, Pennsylvania.

New South
Slavery, racism, and segregation were national experiences.

New Lost Cause
A native-born Southern white woman worked with native-born Southerners, black and white, with a shared sense of decency, to accomplishing the work of desegregation in Mississippi.

Flag dispute
From 1879 to 1956, the Georgia state flag was essentially the "Stars and Bars." If you were going to link any state flag with slavery, that would be the one.

Jonathan Kozol
"So two-tenths of 1 percent marks the difference between legally enforced apartheid in the South 50 years ago, and socially and economically enforced apartheid in New York today"


sources consulted


These are excerpts from a pamphlet forwarded to U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, Oct. 28, 1861, by the major general in command in Baltimore, with this notice: "I inclose a pamphlet containing an address by three peace nominees of Harford County. It is very impudent, but is their language such as to warrant their arrest?" Seward's answer is not recorded, but men were arrested for similar utterances and jailed for months without being charged and without being allowed to communicate with a lawyer.

[This is about two-thirds of the original. What I have omitted is mostly a history of states' rights from the time of the Constitution, as well as some reflections on the previous election and the state of things in Kentucky and Missouri.]


We have thought it best to address you explaining frankly the convictions that influence and the principles that govern us in the present crisis; principles we believe to be sound and convictions we know to be honest. Intending to adhere to them and willing to be judged by them we do not hesitate to submit our opinions unreservedly for your censure or approval.


Within our borders the Federal courts have always been open, their process unobstructed, their orders never resisted (but by Federal officials). Through this section every law of Congress could be enforced and every offense known to the code punished.

Yet Maryland by deliberate acts of the Administration has been outlawed; her government subverted; her laws disregarded and defied; her property seized, and force under the name of martial law has superseded the civil power. Her citizens are arrested without warrant; the security of their papers and effects violated; their right to keep and bear arms infringed, and freedom of speech and of the press not only abridged but suppressed.

Every man knows that these things are done in our midst; no honest man can deny that they are palpable breaches of the Constitution for no man can point to one line in that Constitution or to any law that authorizes, justifies or excuses them. Acts now so sanctioned are encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States and the people, and if prohibited are revolutionary. When the Government is not controlled by the paramount law, when it can do and does what that law does not permit or forbids it is unrestrained and absolute.

Wherever the law is superior to the ruler civil liberty exists; when the ruler is superior to the law; where at his discretion he can supersede, suspend or disobey it he is by whatever name he may be called despotic.

Believing that powers fatal to her rights as a State and destructive of the liberty of her citizens are exercised by those administering the General Government Maryland asks whence they are derived; asks to be shown the grant, and she is told that South Carolina has seceded and the cotton States are in rebellion. But Maryland has not seceded, and unless its repudiation by South Carolina destroyed the Constitution our rights under it are not lost; if it is destroyed the Government, its creature, has ceased to exist.

We have next the much-abused maxim inter arma silent leges (in war the laws are silent), but we reply the Constitution was made for peace and for war and its voice is too potent to be drowned in the din of arms.

But "the Government must be maintained, the Constitution and the Union must be preserved." We answer to violate the Constitution in order to maintain it is a contradiction in terms -- without it there is neither Union nor Government, which can exist only with it. The President's oath is to maintain the Constitution not to preserve the Union in some other mode. We ask you, fellow-citizens, have you ever had or heard from the adherents of the Administration -- the miscalled Union party -- any other justification attempted? Or this eked out with grandiloquent platitudes about the stars and stripes, our flag and the eagle?

There is one more -- the supreme law of necessity! Necessity for what and whence? If the necessity has been produced by the Administration instead of palliation it is but aggravation of its offenses. What then is this necessity? We are told that the seceding States have repudiated the Constitution and deserted the Union; they must be coerced to return to the one and to submit to the other. The Constitution gives no power to coerce a State; the power is indispensable, therefore we must usurp it.


The President has told us that [the war] cannot settle the issues that divided the North and the South. His more conservative adherents declare it is not waged for conquest or subjugation, whilst the abolition wing of his party frankly declares that its motive and its inevitable consequence is to emancipate the slave and destroy the South.

Whatever the opinion elsewhere six months ago except a few isolated Republicans the citizens of Maryland almost to a man of every party denounced the coercive policy and coercive war as fatal to the continuance or the restoration of the Union, and none more earnestly or persistently than the members and leaders of the Union party. We adhere to that opinion still. What reason have they found for renouncing a truth so indisputable?

But we are asked what good can the peace party do if they control the State? They cannot stop the war. We can and will at least refuse to aid in dragging Maryland into the slaughter-house. We can and will refuse at the bidding of the Administration to impose a war debt on her depleted treasury, to tax her citizens or to draft them for the battle-field. We can and will refuse to acknowledge that the Constitution is intermittent--performing or ceasing its functions at the will of the Executive. We can and will refuse to renounce the rights of our citizens or the sovereignty of the State, and will not by assenting to the exercise of powers not conferred by the Constitution admit that it is not supreme in war as well as in peace.


We have addressed you thus freely in plain words that there may be no misunderstanding. We have not stooped to pick the delicate phrases of a new-fangled loyalty. We do not counsel treasonable acts or combinations; we do not advise violence in conduct or unkindness in feeling; we abet no resistance to the law or its constituted authorities.

But we think and say that we should not consult our fears rather than our consciences; we should not volunteer our substance to the taxgatherer or our hands to the fetters. If we are doomed let us not be suicides. Whilst we are permitted to speak let us speak boldly for the truth and justice and civil liberty; whilst we are permitted to vote let us declare by our bolts that we cling to State rights as the only barrier to oppression and that we know no necessity superior to the Constitution.

Let us continue to advise as the Union party did in February last "that if it be found we cannot live together in harmony under the Constitution our fathers framed let us as brethren agree to part in peace," and to disclaim indignantly the doctrine of coercion by arms. If we cannot command let us at least invoke the blessings of peace--peace to a distracted land which partisan sectionalism has summoned to hatred and slaughter! Peace for the sake of those republican institutions which our forefathers left us and which are sinking fast in the red abyss of civil war! Peace for the sake of palsied labor and idle trade! Peace for our good old State, distracted and prostrate, doomed else to be the prize as she is daily more and more the victim of war!



"Resolutions of the General Assembly of Maryland in relation to the arrest and imprisonment of Ross Winans, esq., &c."

BALTIMORE, MD., July 29, 1861.

Whereas, Ross Winans, a member of the house of delegates of Maryland from the city of Baltimore, on his way to his home from the discharge of his official duties on the 14th of May last was arbitrarily and illegally arrested on a public highway in the presence of the governor of this State, by an armed force under the orders of the Federal Government, and was forcibly imprisoned and held in custody thereafter at Annapolis and Fort McHenry without color of lawful process or right by the command and at the arbitrary will and pleasure of the President of the United States; and

Whereas, sundry other citizens of Maryland have been unalwfully dealt with in the same despotic and oppressive manner by the same usurped authority, and some of them have in fact been removed by force beyond the limits of the State of Maryland and the jurisdiction of her tribunals in utter violation of their rights as citizens and the rights of the State as a member of the Federal Union; and

Whereas, the unconstitional and arbitrary proceedings of the Federal executive have not been confined to the violation of the personal rights and liberties of the citizens of Maryland but have been extended into every department of oppressive illegality, so that the property of no man is safe, the sanctity of no dwelling is respected and the sacredness of private correspondence no longer exists; and

Whereas, the senate and house of delegates of Maryland, recognizing the obligation of the State as far as in her lies to protect and defend her people against usurped and aribtrary power-- however difficult the fulfillment of that high obligation may be rendered by disastrous circumstances -- feel it due to her dignity and independence that history should not record the overthrow of public freedom for an instant within her borders without recording likewise the indignant expression of her resentment and remonstrance:

Now therefore be it

Resolved, That the senate and house of delegates of Maryland in the name and on the behalf of the good people of the State do accordingly register this their earnest and unqualified protect against the oppressive and tyrannical assertion and exercise of military jurisdiction within the limits of Maryland over the persons and property of her citizens by the Government of the United States, and do solemnly declare the same to be subversive of the most sacred guarantees of the Constitution and in flagrant violation of the fundamental and most cherished principles of American free government.

Resolved further, That these resolutions be communicated by the president of the senate and the speaker of the house of Honorable James Alfred Pearce and Honorable Anthony Kennedy, Senators of Maryland in the Senate of the United States, with the request that they present the same to the Senate to be recorded among its proceedings in vindication of the right and in perpetual memory of the solemn remonstrance of this State against the manifold unsurpations and oppressions of the Federal Government.*

[*Mr. Kenndy, a Senator from Maryland, presented the foregoing resolutions in the U. S. Senate in special session Aug. 3, 1861. After some dicussion, in which it was asserted by Senator Wilkinson that the resolutions were an insult to the Government.]

2002Douglas Harper "When misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood." -Lionel Trilling