Thursday, August 6, 2015

Arkansas's Civil War heritage: Slavery

Posted By on Thu, Aug 6, 2015 at 9:19 AM

click to enlarge gigantino.png
Just in time for another defense of the Robert E. Lee Holiday by legislators insisting the Civil War was not about slavery and that the holiday is about Southern culture and heritage, not Lee's traitorous defense of a breakaway country intent on preserving slavery.

New from the University of Arkansas Press, "Slavery and Secession in Arkansas: A Documentary History," in which UA historian James Gigantino has brought together hundreds of public documents from the time leading up to Arkansas secession.

Yes, "state's rights" were discussed along with slavery. 

“But Arkansas’ political actors were more interested in the state’s right to hold slaves more than anything else,” Gigantino said. “In almost every circumstance the political actors were arguing that Arkansas needed to take secession seriously, and the perceived threat that Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party presented to slavery.”

An example of a pro-secession resolution linking slaveholding and states’ rights was from Hempstead County, where slaves represented about 40 percent of the county’s population.

Dated Dec. 24, 1860, the resolution includes the clause, “Resolved, that the institution of slavery, as it exists in the present slaveholding States of this Union, is a constitutional right, secured and recognized by the Constitution of the United States … and that it is the duty of the Congress of the United States to protect this right of property in such slaves in all the common territory belonging to the United States …”

There were well-known geographic differences in Arkansas on secession, with the major slave-holding counties most likely to support secession, but even Unionists in northern Arkansas thought the best path to protecting slavery was staying in the union, Gigantino writes.

Buy a copy for your favorite legislator.

Interesting factoid in UA release:

At the dawn of the Civil War, slavery was growing faster in Arkansas than almost everywhere else in the United States. In 1860, one-fourth of the state’s population was in bondage.

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