, , , , , , , ,

white slavery civil warThere are Civil War books . . . and then there are Civil War books. Among the many books about the Civil War on the market today, only one addresses a little-known reason why that great conflict was fought. International book reviewer Danny Yee has stated, “One of the things that has always puzzled me about the history of the United States is how a civil war could be fought and won to end slavery, but full civil rights not be granted to blacks until a century later.” An explanation is to be found in The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War by Dr. Lawrence R. Tenzer whose 21 years of research show that many in the North perceived slavery as a personal threat to their free Northern way of life.

Tenzer explains that in the antebellum South, the children of slave mothers were slaves from the moment of birth. Even though miscegenation lightened skin color, virtually white slave children were still considered mulattoes and remained slaves nonetheless, even after an endless number of generations went by and all discernible Negroid traits were long gone. A good example is a case he reports in which a slave woman who was one sixty-fourth black was on the auction block. One of her great-great-great-great grandparents was black. Not all slaves in the South were black, and this phenomenon of white slaves, whites with a distant black ancestor, was to have unexpected political consequences.

A large number of white slaves escaped to the Northern states hoping to pass into free white society, and slave catchers went North looking for them. This posed a direct threat to white people living in the North because under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, runaway slaves could be reclaimed without due process, which in effect allowed for free whites to be mistakenly seized. Furthermore, as Chapter 6 goes on to prove, such Southern political power opened up the potential for slavery being nationalized, and as such the very real possibility existed that enslavement could be extended to the lower class of white laborers as well. Lincoln himself made reference to slavery “regardless of color” during a speech he gave in Chicago on December 10, 1856. Lincoln also spoke of white slavery in other speeches, all of which Tenzer has fully documented. PLATE 9 is his book shows an 1856 Republican party handbill which clearly states in capital letters, “SLAVERY IS RIGHT, NATURAL, AND NECESSARY, AND DOES NOT DEPEND UPON DIFFERENCE OF COMPLEXION. THE LAWS OF THE SLAVE STATES JUSTIFY THE HOLDING OF WHITE MEN IN BONDAGE.” Illustrations which depict actual white slaves and other historical documents having to do with white slavery provide enough proof to convince even the most skeptical reader that white people were slaves in the American South and that white slavery was indeed a cause of the Civil War. …

Tenzer’s book is entitled, The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War. If a “cause” can be defined as any political or social dynamic which exacerbated the tension between the North and the South, then white slavery with the fear it engendered certainly qualifies having contributed to the deep-rooted friction which existed between the free and slave sections of the country. Tenzer offers an original thought-provoking perspective to our understanding of Abraham Lincoln and pre-Civil War politics along with a unique bibliography with many items which have never appeared in modern scholarship. Of particular importance is the fact that this fully-documented book is the first to explain why Northerners went to war to end slavery without granting blacks full civil rights after that war was won. By bringing new light to bear on slavery and other race-related issues, Tenzer believes his work will help to heal the many racial wounds which are still festering in this country.  O

White Slavery in America