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Letter to the Editor: Slavery was America's original sin

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

To Ivan Price (letter of Sept. 9) and others who believe that defense of slavery was an insignificant cause of the Civil War:

Declarations of Secession were passed by South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas. In each one, defense of slavery is the foundation of secession. Slavery as the main cause of the war is not “a hard case to make.”

Here is some of Mississippi’s: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery ... a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Georgia’s declaration calls black people “property:” “we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have ... refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property.”

Texas decries attacks on the “beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery... The servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free.”

And finally, South Carolina: Northerners falsely call slavery “sinful .... They have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and ... property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited ... to servile insurrection.”

Other grievances – involving tariffs, agriculture, immigration, states’ rights, etc. – all in one way or another refer back to slavery. Remove slavery from the picture, and the grievances fall away. The “right” the Confederate states claimed was the right to enslave.

Mr. Price is correct about one thing. The North did not have clean hands. Northerners were prominent in the slave trade, and many Northern textile barons invested in slave plantations and promoted their expansion.

Slavery is our country’s original sin. Most whites were involved, and we continue to live with its lingering effects. We must stop denying the problem by refusing to face the historical record.

R.L. WATSON

Rocky Mount

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