The March 27 letter “War propaganda” said that North Carolina’s Confederate soldiers had no reason to fight for slavery because few owned slaves. However, they lived in a society whose economic and social base was Negro slavery and white supremacy. A third of North Carolina’s population was enslaved, and more than 85 percent of state legislators owned slaves.
While North Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession doesn’t give a reason for seceding, the ordinances of other states make it crystal clear that they were leaving to defend the institution of slavery. As Mississippi’s ordinance said, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world.”
Strange as it seems now, Southerners of the time felt that slavery was economically, morally and ethically superior to the wage system of the North, and they were outraged by Northern criticism and attempts to limit its spread.
North Carolinians may have preferred to stay in the Union. When faced with the choice of fighting other Southerners and perhaps losing their valuable slaves, they went with the Confederacy.
Good men may fight for bad causes, but they are still bad causes.