The Origin Of Racial Tension In America (Part 1)

Like you, I have read historians and others who have reminded us about our racist heritage. I never thought I was a racist but America did have slavery until the Civil War so I guess we did have a racist heritage.  At least that’s what I used to think. That was my belief until my wife and I went on vacation to the South. I learned a lot about our history, the Civil War, and racism and I hope you will as well. Here’s my story. I encourage you to follow the links I used to support my findings.

Al Menconi

We took the ferry to Fort Sumter while on vacation in South Carolina in early 2018. During the ferry boat captain’s “10-minute history of the Civil War,” he casually mentioned that Lincoln was elected with only 40 percent of the popular vote and 57 percent of electoral votes without receiving one Democratic electoral vote.

The significance of his casual “throw-away” line made me consider the realities of the Civil War. Was the war regional (North against the South) or could it have been a war between philosophies (Republicans against Democrats)?

When I starting writing this paper, I had no agenda, zero preconceived ideas, and no real thesis. I simply thought it would be an interesting concept for me to study. I’m retired, so why not.

I started by googling, “Why did Lincoln win the 1860 presidential election with only 40% of the vote?” And I discovered the reason why. (I’ll explain later). But the more I looked into the Civil War and the reasons why it took place, the more I realized that this was actually a war of Democrats versus Republicans and not a war of location. The Democratic party (North and South) was for slavery and the Republicans platform was based on the principle of freedom for all, which made them “anti-slavery.”

But even further, I discovered that the Democratic Party was more than the party of slavery, racism, and lynching. Yes, they are known for those heinous acts, but I believe their behavior was merely symptomatic of their true driving force. And that driving force was and still is the desire for attaining and keeping power over those they consider inferior.

An illustration of their willingness to do anything for power is to understand why and how President Lyndon B Johnson convinced his Democratic Party to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after they filibustered it for 67 straight days. He is quoted as saying “if they (Democrats) passed the Civil Rights Act he could arrange it so “n****rs would vote Democratic for the next 200 years.”

(As quoted in Inside the White House (1996), by Ronald Kessler, New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 33)

In other words, their vote would again have the blacks on "the Democratic political plantation" for the next 200 years. With that promise of power, the Democratic Senate stopped their 67-day filibuster, and the next day they became “champions of civil rights."

The Democrats didn’t change their position on Civil Rights in 1964 for moral reasons or because they wanted justice for all. No, they saw it as an opportunity to secure the black vote and to once again make them subservient to the Democratic rule. I know this may sound a little harsh but I believe I can prove it by examining the history of the Democratic Party and their values from Jackson to today.

A Short Pre-War History Of America

1808 - America passed “The Northwest Ordinance” legislation which established how territories could become States – forbade slavery in any federal territories at that point.

1820 - The Democratic Congress ignored the anti-slavery “Northwest Ordinance” and passed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which opened slavery to almost half of the US Territories.

The Southern states embraced slavery for economic reasons while many in the North mostly were opposed to slavery for ethical reasons, but the North couldn’t unify enough to effectively oppose slavery politically.

So, in reality, the focused leadership of the Democratic party (North and South) pushed their agenda of accepting slavery with little organized opposition. In many ways, America from 1829 to 1860 was kind of like the politics of present-day California with the Democrats having a “super majority” without too much organized opposition.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself. It’s not a straight path from then to now, but consider this timeline:

The Antebellum US

1830 - Andrew Jackson, the first president of today’s Democratic Party, signed the Indian Removal Act into law.

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee Indians, Jackson simply ignored their ruling and had the Cherokees rounded up by gunpoint and marched them to Oklahoma Territory. This move was the historical “The Trail of Tears” which led to the death of approximately 25% of the Indian population. Why did Jackson ignore the Supreme Court's ruling?  Because he could.  (

Jackson had a propensity for ignoring laws and court decisions he didn’t want to follow. This was the foundation of the Jacksonian/Democrats that became today's Democratic Party and was the nation's dominant political worldview for a generation. The Jacksonians demanded judges to follow their lead and rewrote many state constitutions to reflect these new values.

1850 - The Democratic Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law that required Northerners to return escaped slaves back into slavery or else pay huge fines.
  • In many instances, the law became little more than an excuse for southern slave-hunters to kidnap Free Blacks in the North and carry them into slavery in the South.
  • If a black was simply accused of being a slave (regardless of whether he actually was or not) under this law he was denied the benefit of both a jury trial and the right of habeas corpus – despite the fact that those rights had been explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution. (31st Congress, 1st Session, Chapter 60,9/18/1850, “An Act to amend, and supplementary to, the Act entitled ‘An Act respecting Fugitives from Justice, and Person escaping from the Service of their Masters,’”)
1854 - Democratic Congress passes Kansas-Nebraska act that dissolved the terms of the Missouri Compromise and allowed slave or free status to be decided in the territories by popular sovereignty.
This was the “last straw” for abolitionists.
  • The Republican Party was founded to be the organized opposition for the pro-slavery Democratic Party.
  • Abolitionists, Free-Soilers, Whigs, and others with Judeo/Christian values combined to form the Republican Party. Their main plank emphasized a return to the principles of “equality for all with an emphasis on equal rights for African Americans” under the law.
1857 - The Supreme Court approved the Dred Scott Decision.
  • This declared that black Americans were “not persons, but property” and therefore had no rights.

Part 2 will explain why the Southern Democrats started the Civil War


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