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When in the Course of Human Events
Arguing the Case for Southern Secession

by Charles Adams


When in the Course of Human Events

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.,

Book Description

Publication Date: December 23, 2004

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with one another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect of the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

With these words, thirteen of the British colonies in North America unanimously declared independence from British rule. Eighty-five years later, adhering to principles articulated by their revolutionary forebears, the 11 Confederate States of America seceded from the United States, plunging the country into the bloodiest war of its history. Until the publication of this highly original book, most attempts to explain the origins of the American Civil War relied heavily on regional sympathies and mythology - that the South abandoned the Union to maintain slavery while President Lincoln's primary goal was to preserve the nation. Prominent scholar Charles Adams challenges this traditional wisdom.
Using primary documents from both foreign and domestic observers, Adams makes a powerful and convincing case that the Southern states were legitimately exercising their political rights as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

Although conventional histories have taught generations of Americans that this was a war fought for lofty moral principles, Adams' eloquent history transcends simple Southern partisanship to show how the Civil War was primarily a battle over competing commercial interests, opposing interpretations of constitutional rights, and what English novelist Charles Dickens described as "a fiscal quarrel."
Working from the premise that "wars have seldom been justified," Adams argues that the Civil War was an avoidable humanitarian disaster that nearly destroyed American democracy. This bold and controversial book will not only change how historians think about the causes of the Civil War but will place its powerful legacy into proper perspective.

About the Author

Charles Adams, the world's leading scholar on the history of taxation, is the author of the best selling books, For Good and Evil, Those Dirty Rotten Taxes, and Fight, Flight and Fraud.

Editorial Reviews - From Booklist

In case anyone doubted Garry Wills' argument in A Necessary Evil that the peculiar myths and distortions surrounding the nature, formation, and meaning of the U.S. regularly stir movements committed to myth rather than reality, Adams, a historian of taxation, delivers a polemic that proves it. The Civil War, Adams argues, was not about slavery or the Union; it was about tariffs! The Southern states had a right to secede. Slavery would have ended at some point, but Lincoln did not particularly threaten it. It was, Adams maintains, the "dueling tariffs" of the Union and the Confederacy that caused the war. Within his states' rights argument, Adams maintains secession's legality should have been determined by the courts, and slave holders should have been compensated for the property they lost through emancipation. Adams relies heavily on the European press; he asserts, but does not prove, that U.S. abolitionists were a fanatical lunatic fringe. The author clearly anticipates controversy; it should not be long in coming. Mary Carroll


A very readable and insightful book. (Marshall DeRosa, Florida Atlantic University )

This is the best written, most accurate account of the causes and meaning of the American Civil War. . . . A fantastic book! (John V. Denson, Auburn University)

Highly original. . . . Mr. Adams' work, as well as contributing to the subject, makes a lovely example of the way history should be written. (Clyde N. Wilson, University of South Carolina )

The Civil War violently destroyed the decentralized federal system of the Founders and opened a way for the vast centralized empire of today. To legitimate this revolutionary change, Americans have taught that secession was unconstitutional; that the South seceded to protect slavery; and that the North invaded to emancipate slaves. Charles Adams, a northern historian, argues persuasively that these propositions are false. Adams claims that the war was about what most wars are fought over: control of territory, resources, and revenue. To many this book will be disturbing; to others it will be a breath of fresh air. The first step in healing the fractural historical memory imposed on all Americans by the Civil War is to face the hard truths that Adams brings into focus. Having read this book, I can no longer, with ease, recite the 'Gettysburg Address' or sing the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic.' (Donald Livingston, Emory University)

Adams is the world's leading scholar on the history of taxation. When in the Course of Human Events is a must read for history teachers and history buffs searching for honesty. (Charlotte Observer )

This is one of the most important books ever published on American history. (Forum News Magazine )

This is a well-rounded historical presentation of the events surrounding the Civil War. Whatever you have to do, but do read this book! Winner of the Reformed Library's 2000 Paradigm Award. (Reformed Library )

Delightful and insightful book. The author has provided a well-documented exposure of the real reasons for an unnecessary war. It is a pleasure to read. (The Rebel Rouser )

Provocative, well-argued revisionist history. (The New American )

But if we were to recommend one work - based on originality, brevity, depth, and sheer rhetorical power - it would be Charles Adams' time bomb of a book, When in the Course of Human Events. (Worldnetdaily )

Charles Adams manifests in this excellent book a rare talent—he asks intelligent historical questions. (The Mises Review )

There cannot be any better treatment of the causes of the war and the motivations for the Northern invasion than this book. Using primary documents from both foreign and domestic observers, Adams makes a powerful and convincing case. Certainly, anyone interested in truth will gain a great education from reading When in the Course of Human Events. (Madison Enterprise-Recorder )

When in the Course of Human Events offers a sustained challenge to much of the conventional wisdom about the conflict. Particularly valuable is Adams' critique of Lincoln. (The Washington Times )

For those wanting additional information on the subject I recommend the following books: "When in the Course of Human Events, the Politically Correct Guide to American History." (David Allen Tuscaloosa News )
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