The actions God took to end slavery in North America provide an example of the truth of the religious phrase "God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform."
Although southern leaders in 1860 might have been upset that there
weren't going to be any more slave states, there didn't
appear to be any realistic prospect that the United States
government would end slavery in the near future. Even if
there had been sufficient sentiment in the north to abolish
slavery, neither Congress nor the President had any
constitutional authority to end slavery, especially if they
tried to do so without compensating the owners for the loss of their
slaves. Even if the west could have been divided into enough
states to ratify a constitutional amendment eliminating slavery,
such a situation would have been decades in the future.
Slavery was unpopular in the north, but northern whites didn't want
slavery in their states because they were often bigots who hated
the people most often held as slaves. Keeping slaves out meant
keeping blacks out. Northern whites might have been
reluctant to end slavery without assurance that the freed slaves
wouldn't move to the northern states.
Slavery had caused the nation to become two different economic and
social entities beginning in the colonial era.
The southern colonies were solely economic entities that had found
some high value labor intensive crops that could be grown for profit
in the southeastern climate. They had early turned to forced
immigration of Irish
and African workers to supplement voluntary immigrants to obtain the
necessary labor. The first workers were temporary
indentured servants who served for several years and were then given
their freedom. Plantations later switched to having the
Africans become permanent slaves. English law didn't allow
English subjects to be permanent slaves, but plantation owners got a
law allowing "foreigners" [i.e., Africans] to become permanent
The northern colonies drew more from religious dissidents: such
as Pilgrims and Puritans in New England and Quakers in
The debate over slavery in 1860 reflected this difference.
Southerners viewed slavery as an economic issue. They had depended
on some form of forced labor [indentured servants or permanent
slaves] for 240 years and couldn't envision a different labor system
for agriculture, Residents of northeastern states viewed
slavery as a religious issue in 1860, even though they had earlier
sailed the ships that brought the slaves. Residents of
western states viewed it as a racial issue. They didn't want
blacks either as slaves or free people.
On the surface, the specific reasons
Confederate states gave for seceding from the Union weren't
sufficient to justify such a drastic action. There was no
significant threat to the south or slavery. However, a
more general reading of the reasons indicates the leaders of the
Confederate states no longer felt they were part of the United
States. Confederate leaders felt their states were alienated
from the United States. They had unrealistic
expectations. For example, they complained about not being
able to expand the slave trade to the plains and mountain states,
but the climate of those areas could not have supported plantation
type slave agriculture.
The slow progress of the war against the tenacious Confederate army
created concerns that European powers might decide to support the
Confederate states. This situation forced President
Abraham Lincoln to gamble by issuing a wartime executive order
called the Emancipation Proclamation to punish slave owners in the
rebellious states by freeing their slaves. The Proclamation
could have caused the four slave states that had remained in the
union to secede. The Proclamation neutralized Britain
which had been leading the effort to eliminate the international
Prior to the war most of the states that remained in the union had
prevented blacks from voting. The length of the war angered
northern residents so much that by the end of the war they were
willing to "punish the southern states" by ratifying constitutional
amendments to guarantee the freed slaves, and their own black
residents, the right to vote and equal protection of the laws.
The protection of the rights of former slaves would remain an
elusive dream for a century after the Civil War, but the war
provided the only opportunity to provide the promise of a society in
which skin color wouldn't matter. It would have been
difficult to have gotten the 14th Amendment ratified in 1960.
Without that amendment the civil rights legislation of the 60's
might not have been possible.
The adoption of the Civil War's civil rights amendments represented
a miracle as did the elimination of North American
slavery. In 1860 there was no realistic way to end
slavery other than through transformation of the southern economy
from an agricultural orientation to a manufacturing orientation
which could have taken decades.
Confederate leaders took the only action that made elimination of
slavery possible. A peacetime president had no authority to
act against slavery. However, a wartime president could
act against slavery because war creates its own reality.
If the war had ended quickly, President Abraham Lincoln would not
have had a reason to act.
The Confederate army's ability to force a lengthy war pressured
Lincoln into making slavery an issue for diplomatic reasons.
The length of the war created animosity in the north against the
south and a desire to punish the Confederate states. The
abolitionists were able to exploit this anger to get the northern
states to forget that their own black residents would get the same
I'll let readers decide for themselves. Did North American
slavery end because of a "happy accident", or did God affect the
minds of those involved so that they unintentionally took the
actions that would end slavery and at least potentially guarantee
the freed slaves equal rights?