We Are Fighting for Independence, Not Slavery

Richmond Examiner editorial

August 02, 1864

Mr. Davis, in conversation with a Yankee spy, named Edward Kirk, is reported by said spy to have said, “We are not fighting for slavery; we are fighting for independence.” This is true; and is a truth that has not sufficiently been dwelt upon. It would have been very much to be desired that this functionary had developed the idea in some message, or some other State paper… instead of leaving it to be promulgated through the doubtful report of an impudent blockade-runner.… The sentiment is true, and should be publicly uttered and kept conspicuously in view; because our enemies have diligently labored to make all mankind believe that the people of these States have set up a pretended State sovereignty, and based themselves upon that ostensibly, while their real object has been only to preserve to themselves the property in so many negroes, worth so many millions of dollars. The direct reverse is the truth. The question of slavery is only one of the minor issues; and the cause of the war, the whole cause, on our part, is the maintenance of the sovereign independence of these States.…

The whole cause of our resistance was and is, the pretension and full determination of the Northern States to use their preponderance in the Federal representation, in order to govern the Southern States for their profit. . Slavery was the immediate occasion–carefully made so by them–it was not the cause. The tariff… would have much more accurately represented, though it did not cover, or exhaust, the real cause of the quarrel. Yet neither tariffs nor slavery, nor both together, could ever have been truly called the cause of the secession and the war. We refuse to accept for a cause any thing… than that truly announced, namely, the sovereign independence of our States. This, indeed, includes both those minor questions, as well as many others yet graver and higher. It includes full power to regulate our trade for our own profit, and also complete jurisdiction over our own social and domestic institutions; but it further involves all the nobler attributes of national, and even of individual life and character. A community which once submits to be schooled, dictated to, legislated for, by any other, soon grows poor in spirit;… its citizens, become a kind of half-men, [and] feel that they have hardly a right to walk in the sun.…

The people of Virginia do not choose to accept that position for themselves and for their children. They choose rather to die. They own a noble country, which their fathers created, exalted, and transmitted to them.… That inheritance we intend to own while we live, and leave intact to those who are to come after us.…

It is right to let foreign nations, and “those whom it may concern,” understand this theory of our independence. Let them understand that, though we are “not fighting for slavery,” we will not allow ourselves to be dictated to in regard to slavery or any other of our internal affairs, not because thatwould diminish our interest in any property, but because it touches our independence.

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