| Henry Benning, who was a part of the Georgia Secession Convention, put it succinctly:
"What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that a separation from the North-was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery." [Henry Benning to Virginia Secession Convention, 18 Feb 1861]
Henry L. Benning, Georgia politician and future Confederate general, writing in the summer of 1849 to his fellow Georgian, Howell Cobb: "First then, it is apparent, horribly apparent, that the slavery question rides insolently over every other everywhere -- in fact that is the only question which in the least affects the results of the elections." [Allan Nevins, The Fruits of Manifest Destiny pages 240-241.] Later in the same letter Benning says, "I think then, 1st, that the only safety of the South from abolition universal is to be found in an early dissolution of the Union."
Alexander Stephens was also part of that convention:
"One good and wise feature in our new or revised Constitution is, that we have put to rest the vexed question of slavery forever, so far as the Confederate legislative halls are concerned. On this subject, from which sprung the immediate cause of our late troubles and threatened dangers, you will indulge me in a few remarks as not irrelevant to the occasion." [Alexander Stephens to Virginia Secession Convention, 23 Apr 1861]
"Our people have come to this on the question of slavery." [Lawrence Keitt, South Carolina Secession Debates, Taken from the Charleston, South Carolina, Courier, dated Dec. 22, 1860.]
Lawrence Keitt, Congressman from South Carolina, in a speech to the House on January 25, 1860: "African slavery is the corner-stone of the industrial, social, and political fabric of the South; and whatever wars against it, wars against her very existence. Strike down the institution of African slavery and you reduce the South to depopulation and barbarism."
Later in the same speech he said, "The anti-slavery party contend that slavery is wrong in itself, and the Government is a consolidated national democracy. We of the South contend that slavery is right, and that this is a confederate Republic of sovereign States." Taken from a photocopy of the Congressional Globe
I think you would find a lot in the ranks of the Southern Army who agree'd with those politicians.
"if slavery is to be abolished then I take no more interest in our fight." Brig. Gen. Clement H. Stevens, AOT.
A captain in the 8th Alabama said he would "fight forever, rather than submit to freeing negroes among us. . . . [We are fighting for] rights and property bequeathed to us by our ancestors." [Elias Davis to Mrs. R. L. Lathan, 10 Dec 1863]
" I mean that men who have not only been taught from their infancy that the institution of slavery was right; but men who actually owned and held slaves up to this time, --have now changed in their opinions regarding slavery, so as to be able to see the other side of the question, --to see that for man to have property in man was wrong, and that the “Declaration of Independence meant more than they had ever been able to see before. That all men are, and of right ought to be free”
Capt. Samuel T. Foster, Granbury's Texas Brigade after the surrender of the AoT. April 28, 1865
"We are sometimes asked in the name of patriotism to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation's life, and those who struck to save it--those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice. I am no minister of malice..., I would not repel the repentant, but...may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I forget the difference between the parties to that...bloody conflict."
-- Frederick Douglass, Address at the grave of the Unknown Dead, Arlington, Virginia, May 30, 1871.
"It is very certain that the immediate cause of the political agitation which culminated in the dissolution of the Union was the institution of slavery. There can be no doubt that the Southern people [were] fighting to maintain slavery or prevent its overthrow by the hands of their enemies."
--General Robert E. Lee's aide-de-camp, Colonel Charles Marshall, from his memiors.
"It should be constantly kept in view, through all the bloody phases and terrible epochs of this relentless war, that slavery was the caus beli, that the principle of State Sovereignty, and its sequence, the right of secession, were important to the South principally, or solely, as the armor that encased her peculiar institution--and that every life that has been lost in this struggle was an offering upon the altar of African Slavery."
--Submitted by writer "Q" in the Macon Telegraph, January 6, 1865.
"...any man who pretends to believe that this is not a war for the emancipation of the blacks...is either a fool or liar."
--From The Vidette, November 2, 1862, the unit newspaper of Morgan's Confederate Brigade.
"For it and its perpetuation we commenced and have kept at war."
--Memphis Appeal, quoted in the Macon Telegraph and Confederate, October 31, 1864.
"To talk of maintaining our independence while we abolish slavery is simply to talk folly."
--Charleston Courier, January 24, 1865.
"When I say that this rebellion has its source and life in slavery, I only repeat a simple truism."
--George W. Julian, US Congressman, in a speech to the House of Representatives, January 14, 1862.
"The South went to war on account of slavery...South Carolina went to war as she said in her secession proclamation, because slavery would not be secure under Lincoln...don't you think South Carolina ought to know why it went to war?" --John Singleton Mosby.
It was about the expansion of slavery. Hear Georgia Senator Robert Toombs:
"In 1790 we had less than 800,000 slaves. Under our mild and humane administration of the system, they have increased above 4 million. The country has expanded to meet this growing want; and Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri have received this increasing tide of African labor; before the end of this century, at precisely the same rate of increase, the Africans among us in a subordinate condition will amount to 11 million persons. What shall be done with them?
We must expand or perish. We are constrained by an inexorable necessity to accept expansion or extermination. Those who tell you that the territorial question is an abstraction, that you can never colonize another territory without the African slave trade are both deaf and blind to the history of the last sixty years. All just reasoning, all past history condemn the fallacy. The North understand it better - they have told us for twenty years that their object was to pen up slavery within its present limits - surround it with a border of free states, and, like the scorpion surrounded with fire, they will make it sting itself to death. One thing at least is certain, that whatever may be the effect of your exclusion from the territories, there is no dispute but that the North mean it, and adopt it as a measure hostile to slavery upon this point." - Robert Toombs, November, 1860