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D. Laurence Rogers

D. Laurence Rogers


Slavery economics was the main cause of the Civil War, the author maintains in this book. The contention that slavery was the cause of the war has been based on vague assertions that continue to be challenged by defenders of states rights, the tariff question, etc.

This book shows the progression of conflicts over slavery dating to the American Revolution and contends the war started because the abolitionists controlled the Republican Party, striking fear into hearts of slaveholders who revolted once Abraham Lincoln was elected.

The author explains that Republicans through history have denied their abolitionist roots in order to become a national party. Abolitionist political organizer James G. Birney who laid the groundwork for the Republicans was vilified by Theodore Roosevelt and other political spinmeisters. But now Birney is rising from the ashes in this book.

Why the explosive reaction that triggered the attack on Ft. Sumter?

Economics! Loss of their slaves would impoverish the aristocrats; each bondsman and woman was worth from $300 to $1,000 or more. Confederate political leaders Jefferson Davis and Howell Cobb, for instance, had 500-1,000 slaves. Do the math.

Ending slavery would also decimate the South's traditional control of national affairs since allocation of Congressional representatives was based on slave populations.

Why should Birney be recognized as the outstanding Apostle of Equality? Because he not only divested his fortune by freeing his slaves but also visited every state capital, South and North, in his self-appointed crusade to "save the nation from destruction."


You can find out by reading a new book, "Apostles of Equality: The Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War."

Even political junkies may be amazed at the 180 degree turn-around. A political reporter from a Midwest newspaper, after hearing the story recently, said: "I can't wait to tell my conservative friends that the liberals formed the Republican Party. They are going to be shocked and amazed."

The story of the twist in philosophy is not a new one, of course, but years have a way of obscuring what really happened, says D. Laurence Rogers, author, former newsman and onetime press aide to a Republican Member of Congress.

"Republicans and Democrats have in effect switched places in the philosophical scheme, especially concerning race, by a series of events triggered by an oppressive Reconstruction," says Rogers. "Look at an electoral college map in the present contest and the former Confederate states, onetime "Solid South" bastions of the Democrats, now are all bright red. Doesn't that make you wonder how that has happened?"

The Republicans under Abraham Lincoln also were the party of the working man and supported labor unions, a position directly in opposition to today's GOP dogma. "Republicans used the threat of white slavery, as reportedly posed by Senator Henry Clay in the 1820s, to whip up support among workers in industrial areas of the North," said Rogers. "Clay was quoted by several fellow legislators as saying "if we cannot have black slaves we must have white ones."

The Republican Party's roots can be traced to the abolitionist Liberty Party that twice (1840-1844) ran James G. Birney, reformed Kentucky slaveholder, for President.

During Reconstruction, as former Union officers ruled the South to enforce black voting rights, Republicans white and black were subjected to mass murder by Democrats and the newly formed Ku Klux Klan. That all ended in 1876 when after a contested election Democrats agreed to give up the Presidency in exchange for a deal to pull troops out of the South.

Other insights that may interest political and Civil War buffs make this book must reading in today's volatile climate so infused with racial attitudes of the past. The book explores many previously unelucidated issues including the following:


If pro-slavery Gen. E.O.C. Ord had not stopped Gen. William Birney and his U.S. Colored Troops, the Civil War would probably have ended on April 8, 1865 instead of the following day.

With Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant absent from the field that day, Gen. Ord took it on himself to pull back Birney and his troops who had marched 96 miles in three and a half days and had trapped Lee and the remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Thus Lee was free to attack the following day, April 9, until forced to bow "to overwhelming numbers and resources," as he put it. But that last needless day of battle caused a total of 600 casualties on both sides, Union and Confederate.

Not only were the black Union soldiers denied the glory of ending the war, they were banned from the Grand Parade in Washington, D.C., and most units were quickly shunted to Texas to fight Indians.


The book "Apostles of Equality: The Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War," describes the largely unrecognized importance of James Gillespie Birney, a former Kentucky and Alabama slaveholder who became the first anti-slavery Presidential candidate, and his role as the ideological prophet of Abraham Lincoln.

The exploits of his sons, generals David Bell Birney and William Birney, as well as grandson Lt. James G. Birney IV, also are addressed in the book. William Birney and his men trapped Robert E. Lee and the remnants of his Army of Northern Virginia and perhaps would have ended the war a day sooner had he not been held back, and cashiered, by a Union commander.

Among provocative insights and interpretations of the Civil War addressed in the book: 1-The North profited most from the slave trade; 2-Both Abraham Lincoln and James G. Birney were influenced by the same Emancipation Baptist preachers; 3-The aristocratic Southern culture of dueling caused opposition to compromise with the North and states' rights undermined Confederate collaboration; 4-Jefferson Davis may have doomed rebel hopes in the war when he rejected Confederate soldiers' support for enlisting blacks; Lincoln's advocacy for black troops gave the Union a key advantage; 5-The Civil War was prolonged briefly when Maj. Gen. William Birney and black troops were prevented from attacking Robert E. Lee's army and Birney was stripped of command on the battlefield (a little-known aspect of the war); 6-Republicans seeking votes in the South after Reconstruction blacklisted Birney's contributions to freedom and equality for all even though he had organized Michigan abolitionists in the 1840s and 1850s leading to formation of the party; 7-Duke Law School scholars recently have identified Birney as an important pioneer of abolition through defense of Native Americans in Alabama and Georgia in the late 1820s and his precursory role in shaping the 14th Amendment. Republican Party efforts to minimize ties to abolition in the aftermath of Reconstruction also are addressed in this study of the nation's greatest political and philosophical stalemate.

"Apostles" surveys the political, social and philosophical aspects of Birney's contributions to the abolition movement leading to the Civil War, and amplifies the activities of several military Birneys (his sons and grandson) who recruited black troops in Maryland and led them in subduing Florida and in several key battles in Virginia in the war.


The original aims of the Republican Party of racial equality and uplifting the common man often have been denied for political purposes, this author recalls in a new book: "Apostles of Equality: the Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War."

"After the Civil War white supremacists and the newly-formed Ku Klux Klan conducted a reign of terror against blacks, and Republicans, in retribution for their views and an oppressive Reconstruction," says the author, D. Laurence Rogers. "It is not news to most historians that politically-motivated killings spread across the South, targeting Republicans, but conventional wisdom of history is often the reverse of reality.

Republicans desperate to gain favor among Southern voters assumed the role formerly taken by Democrats and the Klan -- in effect totally reversing their political stand on race. A corrupt bargain in the 1876 election gave the Presidency to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilden in exchange for pullout of troops who were enforcing voting rights of blacks in the South; this has been documented admirably by historians like Richard H. Sewell, Eric Foner, Ari Hoogenboom and others.

"Most amazing was Theodore Roosevelt's claim that Republicans 'would never have meddled with slavery,' blaming the war on 'unscrupulous, treacherous ambitions' of Jefferson Davis and John B. Floyd.

"These facts seem largely unrecognized by neo-conservatives of today who usually align with the Republican Party. Even progressive commentators like Rachel Maddow on MSNBC recently expressed disbelief over the egalitarian views of Abraham Lincoln and other Republicans in the early days.

"What these ideological miscalculations tell us is that much of Civil War historiography has been propaganda, at least in the assignment of blame and denial of credit for the nation's legacy of equality."

Among the radical abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison was an anarchist and John Brown a terrorist. Reformed slaveholder James G. Birney, a Kentucky and Alabama lawyer, offered a reasonable solution to the intersectional conflict. His philanthropic positions, aimed at changing the status quo on behalf of four million slaves, were soundly rejected by by Northern voters in two runs for the Presidency on the Liberty Party ticket. However, his organizing in Michigan laid the foundation for the Free Soil and Republican parties leading to Civil War.


This author reports that armed clashes in the mid-1840s between raiding Kentucky slaveholders and white abolitionists defending escaped slaves in Michigan's Cass County ignited a political conflict that escalated to Civil War.

Actually, the earliest dispute over escaped slaves from Kentucky occurred in 1808 in Detroit, according to a new book, "Apostles of Equality: The Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War," published by Michigan State University Press. When slaveholders tried to reclaim their bondsmen from Canada, freedom-loving white Michiganians threatened to tar and feather the judge who considered allowing their return.

Thus, the seeds of an egalitarian vs. aristocratic conflict that erupted in Civil War were planted more than half a century before guns roared at Fort Sumter.Among the rabid abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison was an anarchist and John Brown a terrorist. Reformed slaveholder James G. Birney, a Kentucky and Alabama lawyer, offered a reasonable solution to the intersectional conflict. His philanthropic positions, aimed at changing the status quo on behalf of four million slaves, were soundly rejected by by Northern voters in two runs for the Presidency on the Liberty Party ticket. However, his organizing in Michigan laid the foundation for the Free Soil and Republican parties.

Read other provocative insights and interpretations of the Civil War:

Did the fact that Jefferson Davis barred enlistment of black troops doom the Confederacy?

This new book contends that when the Confederate president rejected a general's idea to beef up decimated rebel forces, and Abe Lincoln approved black troops, the fate of the war was determined.

In 1864 the Irish volunteer Gen. Patrick Cleburne was roundly criticized, and denied promotion by Davis and other leading rebels, for his plan to enlist blacks and give them freedom.

The Union, on the other hand, welcomed about 180,000 blacks into the army -- about 10 percent of the entire force -- a factor believed by some observers to have tipped the balance in the conflict.

Biography: D. Laurence Rogers

During a long career in Journalism, D. Laurence Rogers has focused on government and political reporting and investigations as well as analysis and commentary.

His book "Apostles of Equality: The Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War," seeks to correct injustice to the political legacy of abolitionist James Gillespie Birney and examines Birney's courageous leadership in the nation's interminable struggle over slavery.

A native of Chicago, Mr. Rogers grew up in Bay City, Michigan, and began reporting on the Michigan Legislature and state government as a student at Michigan State University in the late 1950s. Early reporting included student health issues and legislative gridlock leading to a "payless paydays" shutdown of the Michigan government.

He was a night copydesk editor at the Lansing (MI) State Journal and statewide radio-tv correspondent at the state capital while still a student at MSU. He was an intern in the office of a Member of Congress during the John F. Kennedy administration. Reporting for The Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press, he covered state and national figures and political campaigns. He covered former President Dwight Eisenhower and campaigns of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. He was investigative reporter, city editor and chief editorial writer for The Bay City (MI) Times. He won a "distinguished reporting of public affairs" award from the American Political Science Association for a series of articles that helped foil the annexation of a power plant by a small city. United Press International honored him for investigations revealing abuses of patients in nursing homes and the AP gave him and his staff the "breaking news" top award for coverage of a hotel fire that killed 11 persons. Among temporary assignments, he was lead reporter for AP international coverage of a Great Lakes ship collision that claimed a dozen lives and he reported from the White House on Carter Administration frustration over hostages in Iran. Mr. Rogers also covered the initial hearings of the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon during Watergate and reported on United Nations deliberations.

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Journalism from MSU and has been an instructor at several Michigan universities and colleges. He recently was a stringer for Reuters News Agency and is a free-lance writer and columnist on politics, business and history for, a mid-Michigan regional on-line news service.

For the past two decades he has conducted historical tours of Bay City and on various vessels on the Saginaw River and bay and has made presentations on local and Civil War history to many groups. He can be contacted at or 989-686-5544.

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