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Slavery and the Civil War

Every time I’ve written about the subject of slavery and the Civil War, my blog has been descended upon by confederate apologists insisting that slavery had very little to do with why we went to war, that it was all about the north trying to oppress the south. Tracy Thompson notes that this argument is false but was an intentional fabrication by the south’s defenders that has been relentlessly promoted for a century and a half.

White Southerners reacted to all this with a renewed determination to prevent outsiders from maligning the reputation of their gallant fighting men by writing textbooks especially for Southern students. One postwar author was none other than Alexander Stephens, former vice president of the Confederacy, whose portrayal of the war sounds remarkably like the version you hear from many Southerners and political conservatives today: it was a noble but doomed effort on the part of the South to preserve self-government against federal intrusion, and it had little to do with slavery. (This was the same Alexander Stephens who had proclaimed in 1861 that slavery was the “cornerstone” of Southern society and “the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”)

As the UDC gained in political clout, its members lobbied legislatures in Texas, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Florida to ban the purchase of textbooks that portrayed the South in anything less than heroic terms, or that contradicted any of the lost cause’s basic assertions. Its reach extended not just to public schools but to tenured academia—a little-known chapter of its propaganda effort is detailed by James Cobb in his 2005 book “Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity.” Cobb recounts how in 1911, for instance, University of Florida history professor Enoch Banks wrote an essay for the New York Independent suggesting that slavery was the cause of secession; Banks was forced by the ensuing public outcry to resign. Perhaps Banks should have seen that coming: seven years earlier, William E. Dodd, a history professor at Virginia’s Randolph-Macon College, had complained that to merely suggest the confederacy might not have been a noble enterprise led by lofty-minded statesmen “is to invite not only criticism but enforced resignation.” Dodd himself would later migrate to the University of Chicago, where he established a Northern outpost for Southerners who were interested in a serious examination of Southern history. Such scholarship was not encouraged back home: the first postwar society of Southern historians was created in 1869 for the explicit purpose of vindicating the confederate cause.

The fear of losing one’s job worked to keep most dissenters in line, but if that failed, self-appointed censors in the community were always on the lookout. In 1913, for instance, the sons of confederate Veterans succeeded in banning from the University of Texas history curriculum a book that they felt offered an excessively New England slant on recent history. The UDC industriously compiled lists of textbooks used in schools across the South, sorting them into one of three categories: texts written by Northerners and blatantly unfair to the South; texts that were “apparently fair” but were still suspect because they were written by Northerners; and works by Southern writers. Outside academia, the New South creed, popularized by Atlanta newspaper editor Henry Grady in an effort to spur economic development, also reinforced this new orthodoxy. A big part of Grady’s canny public relations was to pay extravagant homage to the imagined splendor of the antebellum South, and to portray the New South as a revival of that genius instead of what it really was: the rise of a whole new class of plutocrats.

It’s a long article, but all worth reading. I’m willing to meet those apologists at least part of the way. They are correct when they say that Lincoln did not make the decision to go to war in order to end the institution of slavery; he did it to preserve the union and slavery was relatively incidental to that. But the reason for the secession was clearly slavery, as the declarations of secession make absolutely clear. For the south, it was all about retaining the “right” to own slaves, which they correctly saw would be at risk if they stayed in the union because they would soon be outvoted in Congress. All that talk of “state’s rights” was just a euphemism for that and that alone.

Comments

  1. says

    Ed: you may want to dig up those quotes from Confederate officials that you pasted in your earlier SciBlogs post of the same title. Why put the South on trial when we already have signed, uncoerced confessions?

    A big part of Grady’s canny public relations was to pay extravagant homage to the imagined splendor of the antebellum South, and to portray the New South as a revival of that genius instead of what it really was: the rise of a whole new class of plutocrats.

    Yet another propaganda campaign funded and organized by the rich as cover for their ongoing drive to divide, delude, and enslave everyone else. Just like the KKK, the Nazis, the libertarians, and the Tea Party.

  2. davidbrown says

    Of course, when states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Michigan passed Personal Liberty laws that either opposed or made less oppressive the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the South was enraged and demanded that these laws be overturned. States Rights for me, but not for thee, clearly.

  3. says

    Lincoln went to war to preserve the Union.

    And we northerners have been paying for it ever since.

    It is well past time we stop coddling the confederate apologists and the southern victimhood industry. The Confederacy was not a romantic lost cause. They seceded and went to war to preserve slavery. After they lost, they did everything could to enforce segregation for a century afterwards. And as CPAC indicated, there are those would love to go back to the “good old days”.

    Meanwhile the poorest states, the states with the highest teen pregnancy rates, the lowest education rates, and the (shockingly) most religious states are all southern states.

    But hey, at least they’ve been raised to take pride in their heritage.

  4. says

    Slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War, but the war itself was mostly over whether a state had a right to leave the union. It was established by force of arms that they do not.

    As for the South, it must be remembered that, heroic or not, they were traitors who raised up arms against the national government (as were the colonial rebels, but you are a traitor only if your side loses.)

  5. rabbitscribe says

    “Just like the KKK, the Nazis, the libertarians, and the Tea Party.”

    My, I thought it all started thirty years ago when I read “Anarchy, State and Utopia” and found it intellectually compelling. But apparently I’m just dancing to the strings pulled by my Nazi puppetmasters. Who knew?

  6. robertharvey says

    There is an excellent free online course at Yale about the Civil War. Most of the first ten sessions are about the role of slavery in the outbreak of the war, and a great deal of that time is spent un-revising neo-Confederate revisionist history. A lot of it is quotations from what people said before the war as opposed to what they said after the war.

    http://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-119#sessions

  7. zippythepinhead says

    I’m shocked, SHOCKED to learn there was slavery at the time of the Civil War. You hardly ever see them mentioned in the same context.

  8. slc1 says

    They are correct when they say that Lincoln did not make the decision to go to war in order to end the institution of slavery; he did it to preserve the union and slavery was relatively incidental to that. But the reason for the secession was clearly slavery, as the declarations of secession make absolutely clear. For the south, it was all about retaining the “right” to own slaves, which they correctly saw would be at risk if they stayed in the union because they would soon be outvoted in Congress.

    Now, now, according to conspiracy theorist Don Williams, late of Southwestern Virginia and UVA, on this very blog, the real reason for the Civil War was the desire of Northern plutocrats to control the coal mines in West Virginia and, after that state had been secured for the North, to control the railroads that transported the coal from the mines to the port of Norfolk. It’s all very simple you’re just stupid if you don’t understand it.

  9. doublereed says

    The other major outcome of the Civil War was the major cornerstone of our Constitution known as the 14th Amendment, which incorporated a lot of Bill of Rights into the states (along with “Equal Protection under the Law”). That essentially gave the legal precedent for almost everything that makes the Right so angry, like banning prayer in school.

    Whenever I hear about southerners or Scalia talking about Constitutional Originalism or whatever, or waxing on about what the founding fathers intended, I always think of the 14th Amendment. Remember, the founding fathers didn’t put in the 14th Amendment. That’s what these guys are actually saying. They don’t believe in the 14th Amendment.

  10. says

    It is easy for these kinds or arguments to end in subjectivity so I would ask people if they ever have any doubt for why the south seceded from the union, simply read their articles of secession where they spell out their reasons. The 2 most important were SC and VA. The first because they started it, and the second because it would have gone nowhere without VA on the side of the south.

    And according to THEM, the reason was slavery. And for those that argue it was about states rights. Again, we don’t have to dwell on subjective arguments. Just read the Confederate Constitution. If differs from ours by VERY little which is not surprising because much of ours was written by Virginians. But it differs from ours in 2 specific areas. One, slavery is codified and states are barred from making it illegal. 2, The central government is MUCH MORE powerful over the states in their constitution than in ours. So how can you argue they fought for states rights when they legislated against states rights?

    I would also like to address the issue of revisionism. In 1860, very few northerners thought the Negro was an equal so altho many thought slavery should end, few thought the Negro should become a citizen. But less than 10 years later we voted just that, to make them full citizens. What happened to make this profound change?

    I would suggest the movie Glory touches on the reason. And that movie actually underplays it. During that war the actions of Negro men and woman were truly astounding to the rest of America. In battle not only did they fight well, but when the white officers were killed, black men were called upon to take over the leadership and they invariably proved themselves. And they proved themselves over and over and these stories got out throughout the north and also throughout the south. It simply could no longer be denied that black men and woman were indeed equals.

    So the essential reason for that war by the south was eviscerated and thus they simply were forced to create a much less abhorrent reason for the war. And this is exactly what they did.

    Consider yourself in that time. You truly feel yourself to be an honorable man yet you have been proven to have just fought a war that you yourself now believe to be an abhorrent reason. How can you live with that? YOU DON’T. You rewrite that reason. And not only do you rewrite that reason in a book, but you rewrite that reason inside your own head. How else can people who fervently believe themselves to be moral beings otherwise live with themselves?

    So the southern version of events becomes the predominant version, even often in the north. And since northern historians tend to not have a dog in that fight, they tend to avoid the subject. Why write a book that is apt to be banned in half the nation? Thus this rewriting of the reason for that war that has tended to stick. Even in many northern schools. Tho thankfully for truth, much of that revisionism has given way to facts.

  11. says

    You also have to factor in how Southerners sought to expand the number of slave states by acquiring Cuba, sponsoring filibuster expeditions to Latin America, etc.

  12. garlic says

    Yup. The North went to war to prevent secession; but secession itself occurred to preserve slavery.

    If you ever see any sincere person doubting this (esp. students and pupils), don’t even try to argue, just point them to the actual declaration of secession by South Carolina.

    The only stated reason for seceding is the fact that those evil Northerners won’t honor their constitutional obligation to return runaway slaves.

    How people can deny that stuff is beyond me.

  13. says

    If you read an online comparison of the USA and CSA constitutions, you’ll see that the CSA constitution takes hardly any powers away from its federal government. According to there (emphasis original):

    Overall, the CSA constitution does not radically alter the federal system that was set up under the United States constitution. It is thus very debatable as to whether the CSA was a significantly more pro-“states’ rights” country (as supporters claim) in any meaningful sense. At least three states rights are explicitly taken away- the freedom of states to grant voting rights to non-citizens, the freedom of states to outlaw slavery within their borders, and the freedom of states to trade freely with each other.

    States only gain four minor rights under the Confederate system- the power to enter into treaties with other states to regulate waterways, the power to tax foreign and domestic ships that use their waterways, the power to impeach federally-appointed state officials, and the power to distribute “bills of credit.” When people champion the cause of reclaiming state power from the feds, are matters like these at the tops of their lists of priorities?

    As previously noted, the CSA constitution does not modify many of the most controversial (from a states’ rights perspective) clauses of the American constitution, including the “Supremacy” clause (6-1-3), the “Commerce” clause (1-8-3) and the “Necessary and Proper” clause (1-8-18). Nor does the CSA take away the federal government’s right to suspend habeus corpus or “suppress insurrections.”

  14. says

    Dr X, I don’t know if you are being sarcastic, but according to the Constitution and according to the Supreme Court, constitutional amendments are valid when Congress says they are valid. Though it is true that some states rescinded their passing the 14th amendment, and nearly all the southern states rejected it, Congress passed a law saying it was passed and done. Finished. And later many of those southern states that rejected it later passed it. And since there is no time limit for amendments, and Congress has said that it is valid, and for a hundred plus years it has been accepted as valid, it is valid.

    Making arguments on the basis of opinion is not how our law works. You and others can believe that the 14th never passed, and you can have really cool arguments to that affect. But it just does not make it so.

  15. oranje says

    I once had a remarkably civil conversation with one of these folks. It turned out this person kept saying “states rights” because she didn’t want to be viewed as a racist. She fully agreed that the southern economy would collapse without slavery, though. It was kind of surreal. I apparently could not effectively enough communicate to her that owning another human doing to do your work and prop up your economy, especially when there is a remarkable racial breakdown in the owners and owned, is in and of itself racist. She couldn’t get that at all.

    Feels a bit like trying to explain women’s rights to a fair number of neanderthals today. I use the same bit of wall to beat my head against, at least.

  16. says

    @ Dr X: RE: Nozick

    This is going to be rough because I don’t have the time to get into details

    Nozick several years after A,S, and U took back parts of the argument contained in that book because he came to see the democratic process (which cannot, really, be grafted into Nightwartchmen State) to have inherent value, among other things. But so what? the text/argument stands for itself. Nozick may have been wrong to take back his own view as expressed in A, S and U.

    And for the record, Rawls (the guy Nozick was more or less responding to) ended up taking back/reworking aspects of A Theory of Justice, I.e. inserting public reason/overlapping consensus stuff while removing the Kantian basis of Justice as Fairness, in Political Liberalism/Justice As Fairness: Restatement.

    Should I therefore merely discount a Theory of Justice because of this?

    I think Rabbitscribes’ point was there is a philosophical tradition of libertarianism and you shouldn’t just assume that self-ascribed libertarians are, you know, useful idiots for nefarious puppet masters of the right.

    Through, Rabbitscribe is wrong to date the start of libertarianism to Nozick’s book. It’s a long tradition which, delectably, goes back to Locke.

  17. says

    AS a life-long Southerner I know it’s just as impossible to argue with people who think the Civil War was about states rights or tariffs or Abe Lincoln’s hair cut as it is to argue with people who think Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim atheist commienazi.
    Because they’re the same fucking people, at least down here.

  18. wscott says

    Excellent article. Some of the worst arguments I’ve ever had in my life have been with Southern friends who were insulted by the mere suggestion that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery. The worst one was started when a friend was complaining about Japanese textbooks whitewashing the causes of WWII, and I said something like “Yeah, it’s like how the Southern states whitewash the Civil War…” Darn near got punched.

    Sidebar: several years ago I visited a museum in New Orleans (pre-Katrina), and was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of good unvarnished material on slavery and specifically what life was like for slaves. But when I got to the section on the Civil War, there was exactly zero mention of slavery; just some impossibly vague states rights blather.

    @ markmckee 13: Well said. Cognitive dissonance makes people do weird things.

  19. says

    Nozick several years after A,S, and U took back parts of the argument contained in that book because he came to Through, Rabbitscribe is wrong to date the start of libertarianism to Nozick’s book. It’s a long tradition which, delectably, goes back to Locke.

    Yes, I know. I was a libertarian before Nozick wrote Anarchy, State and Utopia. I was just teasing.

  20. demonhauntedworld says

    Seems to me that the phrase “state’s rights” is still just a racist/misogynist/theocratic dogwhistle.

  21. laurentweppe says

    How people can deny that stuff is beyond me.

    Because it’s better to playact the village’s idiot who believes wild tales than to confess that for you civilization exists to force 95% of the population to break their back so that a tiny minority can eat and drink and fuck and party forever without doing any actual effort

    The South is lying, it’s not delusional

  22. mobius says

    The Civil War is somewhat a passion of mine. I have argued with Confederate apologists, of which there are many in Oklahoma, over the cause of the Civil War. On many occasions I have heard, “The South fought for states’ rights, not slavery.”

    I will grant that states’ rights were involved, but the overwhelming states’ right that was considered was slavery. Undeniably, IMHO. Any other states’ right is pretty much a red herring to divert the discussion.

  23. JustaTech says

    Wscott @23: I had the dubious pleasure of visiting the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library (also pre-Katrina) in Buloxi (I believe). It was an educational experience, to say the least. My father (a northerner) got quieter and quieter as we walked through the exhibits until we got to the last bit. That was a series of banners hung from the ceiling that proclaimed every name the South has ever used for the Civil War: War of Northern Agression, War of Southern Succession, War for States Rights, War Against the North, and so on.

    As we left my father remarked that he didn’t know the South won the Civil War. Twisted ’round ’til black is white.

  24. rabbitscribe says

    Demo, see my #6 in response to #2. Michael, absolutely. Reading Nozick sparked my personal libertarian sympathies, that’s all.

  25. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    you shouldn’t just assume that self-ascribed libertarians are, you know, useful idiots for nefarious puppet masters of the right.

    It’s not an assumption, but a deduction from years of observation.

  26. D. C. Sessions says

    Instead of arguing with those who have … quaint notions regarding the Civil War and the basis for the attempted secession of South Carolina, I have a fairly simple approach:

    “Would you care to make this interesting?”

    And put down some hard cash. Reason for the war? Well, it started at Fort Sumter, so how about the reason that South Carolina cited at the time? We can look that up.

    All in all, good for some occasional beer money.

  27. iangould says

    You know if the Union had simply hung Stephens, Davis, Forrest and a half dozen other leading Confederates after the war , a lot of grief would have been avoided.

  28. davidworthington says

    @28–The Civil War is really the only war I can remember where the losers got to write the history.

  29. says

    I think I remember reading an article that said that some of the Southern states, in their Declarations of Seccession, that they were secceding to preserve slavery.

  30. Michael Heath says

    I recently finished Jon Meacham’s biography of President Andrew Jackson. Mr. Meachum reports that many of the squabbles fought between the north and the south during the Jackson Administration three decades prior to the Civil War effectively served as proxies on a fight about slavery, where even many in the North attempted to deny or avoid their battle was really about slavery. So denial came early to this battle and even infected both sides.

    Tracy Thompson:

    Enoch Banks wrote an essay for the New York Independent suggesting that slavery was the cause of secession; Banks was forced by the ensuing public outcry to resign. Perhaps Banks should have seen that coming: seven years earlier, William E. Dodd, a history professor at Virginia’s Randolph-Macon College, had complained that to merely suggest the confederacy might not have been a noble enterprise led by lofty-minded statesmen “is to invite not only criticism but enforced resignation.” Dodd himself would later migrate to the University of Chicago, where he established a Northern outpost for Southerners who were interested in a serious examination of Southern history. Such scholarship was not encouraged back home: the first postwar society of Southern historians was created in 1869 for the explicit purpose of vindicating the confederate cause.

    Professor Dodd is the protagonist featured in Erik Larsen’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. Here Dodds is the U.S. Ambassador during the period where Hitler and the Nazi’s took over Germany (1933 – 1934). During this period much of the U.S. denied the evil of the Nazi’s in spite of the convincing available evidence by 1932; part of FDR’s leadership was to get his countrymen to confront what the Nazis were, rather than avoid or deny this reality. Dodd was a key, expert ally. As a devotee of Thomas Jefferson, Dodds served the U.S. as an effective proxy of Jefferson ideology confronting the evil of fascism Nazi style.

    Consider the rarity of a historical figure who distinguished himself on two completely different issues as a result of serving in two distinctly different jobs. Here the common thread is Dodd’s having to confront denialism from two different fronts, the American south after the Civil War and then the Nazis and those incapable of confronting the facts regarding Nazi attributes, including millions of Americans. Albert Einstein knew better.

  31. Michael Heath says

    Rob F @ 16,

    Dispatch comment contribution of the year? I think so. Thanks for the awesome link.

  32. pacal says

    it is interesting to note that after the Civil War both Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stevens wrote massive works, and made innumerable speeches and declarations shrieking and whining that slavery was not a cause of the Civil war but a mere “incident” when the actual “cause” was the fight against “tyranny” and centralized government. Of course before the war and in the early stages of the war both talked endlessly about how the Northern threat to slavery caused succession. Mr. Steven’s in his infamous Cornerstone Speech, openly said that the cornerstone of the Confederacy was slavery and that slavery was good and blessed, and that the Northern threat to it was the cause of succession. After the war Stevens and Davis lied and lied repeatedly and often about the reasons while scrupulously avoiding the actual record of what they said and did before the war. Generations of pro-Confederate and neo-Confederates have continued this proud tradition of not finding out what was actually said but continue to rely on the lying, mendacious Confederate memoir literature.

  33. dickspringer says

    Germany has done a much better job of confronting the evil in its past than the American South has ever done.

  34. tbp1 says

    I graduated from high school in 1972. My high school flew the Confederate flag, called its sports teams the Rebels, used “Dixie” as the fight song, and had a guy in a Confederate uniform, called General Reb, waving a sword around at sporting events.

    In 1972.

    There was a group of us who realized how totally screwed up that was, but we were definitely in the minority.

    My terrific American history teacher, a rare-on-the-ground genuine liberal, however, did manage to give her students a pretty good grasp of the Civil War, its causes and effects, although I’m not sure she convinced everyone. I’ve always been grateful to her for that.

  35. laurentweppe says

    The Civil War is really the only war I can remember where the losers got to write the history.

    You can add the Algerian War: nostalgics of the colonial empire still hold tremendous mediatic clout in France.

    Not only did Algeria became independant, but by the end of the war (and we know that with certainty since a referendum was organized), less than 10% of metropolitan France wanted to keep by Force Algeria in France. The Colonial Empire fetishists were clobbered in the ballot box, yet they’re still around and still bullshiting about it.

    ***

    @ pacal

    It’s even more ridiculously dishonest than that:

    Before the civil war, the southern press wrote stuff like:

    The Cavaliers, Jacobites, and Huguenots, who settled the South, naturally hate, contemn, and despise the Puritans who settled the North.
    The former are a master-race-the latter a slave race, the descendants of Saxon serfs.

    Before doing a switcheroo after the defeat and starting tp pretend that they had always been peaceful gentleman who only fought in self defense

    Had they lived today, the southern elite would probably have named their confederacy “The Most Mighty Empire of Badasskin“. These sacks of shit were nothing more than bullies who suddenly turned into a pacifist when their pubching-bags grew stronger than them and broke their arm.

  36. laurentweppe says

    Germany has done a much better job of confronting the evil in its past than the American South has ever done.

    Germany has been razed to the ground by the allies precisely to make it crystal clear to their surviving elites that denying their responsabilities would not be tolerated.

  37. cotton says

    As a southerner I can confirm that this argument about slavery not being the cause of the war is, at least in Mississippi, very popular. It seems to me this is the reason du jour to justify what simply cannot be justified.

  38. jws1 says

    Marcus Ranum, your new found source, letters of note, is delicious, as is gorgeously demonstrated here.

  39. bad Jim says

    When you read the Confederate Constitution, the first thing you notice is that the preamble was amended to mention God. This may seem rather trivial, but it is emblematic of everything that happened from that point on and demonstrates their rejection of the radical humanism of the founders.

    It’s worth emphasizing that Lincoln didn’t do anything to cause the south to secede. That happened before he was inaugurated. The south decided to separately merely because they didn’t like the results of an election.

  40. lochaber says

    If this stuff didn’t have serious consequences, it would almost be funny.

    Kinda like how it’s funny how some of those who swear up and down that the civil war wasn’t about slavery, are some of the first quietly (or not so…) murmur about affirmative action when they end up working with a black person.

    Or like those people who proudly fly a confederate flag, claiming it represents ‘heritage’ and what not, while denying it has anything to do with treason or racism. And then they will turn around and demand that it should be illegal to fly a mexican flag, or demand someone to take a Puerto Rican flag off of their barracks wall. I’m not sure if they were just blatantly racist, or if they actually believed Puerto Rico was another country…

  41. matty1 says

    Germany has done a much better job of confronting the evil in its past than the American South has ever done.

    Germany has been razed to the ground by the allies precisely to make it crystal clear to their surviving elites that denying their responsabilities would not be tolerated.

    True but the same razing and occupation, for much the same reasons was done in Japan and yet there is apparently something very similar to the ‘lost cause’ mythology there.

    It’s the myth of the honorable warrior, the lost cause and of men “defending their country.” Some even go so far as glorifying our part in the war as a fight against western imperialism and racism dating back to the League of Nations. It’s a myth that works to whitewash atrocities, portray civilians in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki as victims. We were victimized, too, the story goes. It’s a comforting myth. It’s also completely and utterly wrong. The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was a Monroe-esque nightmare of imperialism that had nothing in common with Fumimaro Konoe’s dreams of an “Asia for Asiatics”. Starting with the second Sino-Japanese War, the conduct of Japanese soldiers was deplorable, making the most of their imperial position to exploit and abuse the people they were ostensibly “liberating”.

    No amount of excuses or hardships can make up for the sheer savagery we inflicted upon the rest of Asia. The most we can do is apologize, vocally, profusely and sincerely while at the same time demonstrating that we have, indeed moved beyond the flaws of our forefathers.

    Note:while Mr Akimoto is well capable of defending himself I want to point out that I don’t think the reference to Hiroshima should be read as endorsing the bombing so much as denying that it retrospectively justifies Japanese actions beforehand.

  42. says

    Before the war began, Lincoln. the “Black Republican” having been elected was enough for the southern papers to admit that slavery was why they were fixin’ for a fight:

    Another error is the belief that the South has been moved to resistance chiefly by the adverse result of the Presidential contest. We are told with marked emphasis that Lincoln has been elected in strict conformity to the mandates of the Constitution and the provisions of the law.

    Now this is not denied, nor does the South profess to desire a separation exclusively or even chiefly on account of the success of the Black Republican nominee. That was but the crowning stroke to a protracted and wanton series of aggressions on the South; the final and fitting upshot to a long-continued policy of injustice and oppression. Lincoln’s triumph is simply the practical manifestation of the popular dogma in the free States that slavery is a crime in the sight of GOD, to be reprobated by all honest citizens, and to be warred against by the combined moral influence and political power of the Government.

    The South, in the eyes of the North, is degraded and unworthy, because of the institution of servitude. She is hated by the North because she holds the black race in bondage. She is persecuted because fanatics have made unto themselves a peculiar code of ethics with which the South does not agree, because she knows it to be fallacious.

    It is self-evident that if one-half of the people of a country look upon the other half as in the perpetual commission of a heinous offense before GOD, and disseminate the doctrine that they are guilty of the grossest violation of civil, social and religious canons, the section deemed thus culpable must be regarded as inferior in every respect to the former….If this is a sentiment compatible with the endurance of a Union avowedly founded on the most perfect political equality and social harmony and fraternity, then we must ignore the history of our revolutionary struggles, our efforts in behalf of a sound government, and our success in the formation of the Constitution of the United States.

    — Editorial, New Orleans Bee, December 10, 1860

  43. sailor1031 says

    “The Cavaliers, Jacobites, and Huguenots, who settled the South, naturally hate, contemn, and despise the Puritans who settled the North.”

    That explains why the south lost! They’re descended from History’s losers; it’s all in their DNA. UVA still call themselves “Cavaliers”…….One of the local HS teams in this neck of the VA woods call themselves “the Trojans” – they were pretty big losers too as I recall from studying Vergilius way back when. The southern losing tradition can be traced way back I guess.

  44. robertharvey says

    Don’t forget celebrating the Alamo, another historic defeat that is revered in the South.

  45. says

    I decided a while back that the Civil War, which is called by all of those different names in the South, would be more appropriatley labelled “The War of Southern Treachery”.

  46. matty1 says

    It is self-evident that if one-half of the people of a country look upon the other half as in the perpetual commission of a heinous offense before GOD, and disseminate the doctrine that they are guilty of the grossest violation of civil, social and religious canons, the section deemed thus culpable must be regarded as inferior in every respect to the former

    In short “If you don’t let us oppress people that’s oppressing us” plus ca change I guess.

  47. says

    Germany has done a much better job of confronting the evil in its past than the American South has ever done.

    I can think of at least one good reason for that: Germany has a LAW against denying certain historical facts, while we Americans reflexively oppose such laws. And the more I hear of right-wing idiots systematically erasing important bits of my country’s history — not just the cause of the Civil War, but the Civil Rights movement, Caesar Chavez, the reality of slavery, the labor movement, the reality of what happened to Native Americans, and probably much more — the more I suspect we need to rethink this misdirected committment to “free speech.”

  48. says

    … there is a philosophical tradition of libertarianism and you shouldn’t just assume that self-ascribed libertarians are, you know, useful idiots for nefarious puppet masters of the right.

    I’m not “assuming” anything; I’m drawing conclusions based on observation of libertarians’ words an actions. The “useful idiots” have been actively supporting destructive right-wing policies, and the “philosophical tradition” has been consistently tailored to serve a reactionary and authoritarian agenda.

    Through, Rabbitscribe is wrong to date the start of libertarianism to Nozick’s book. It’s a long tradition which, delectably, goes back to Locke.

    Bullshit. Locke’s magnum opus was titled “The Second Treatise of Government,” NOT “The Second Treatise of Why Market Forces are Always Good and We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Gummint.” Why did Locke spend so much time talking about government? Because he understood that government and state power were necessary to maintain a free, advanced, orderly and prosperous society. Libertarians have totally erased this message, replaced it with their own babyish “gummint bad” ideology, and kept Locke’s name as window-dressing. Their “tradition” doesn’t “go back to Locke” any more than mine goes back to the Chin Dynasty.

  49. laurentweppe says

    “The War of Southern Treachery”

    The war where the Yankees kicked the inept inbred lazy parasitic southern white nobility’s ass so hard that they’re still snivelling 150 years later.

    ***

    I can think of at least one good reason for that: Germany has a LAW against denying certain historical facts [...] the more I suspect we need to rethink this misdirected committment to “free speech.”

    I’ll never say it often enough: deliberate lies are not and should not be treated like speech. When you twist a liars arm, you’re not repressing free speech, you’re just twisting a fucking liar’s arm.

  50. wscott says

    You know if the Union had simply hung Stephens, Davis, Forrest and a half dozen other leading Confederates after the war , a lot of grief would have been avoided.

    Yes, because creating martyrs to a cause always undermines support for that cause… ;)

    The Civil War is really the only war I can remember where the losers got to write the history.

    The “history is written by the winners” trope is complete BS anyway. For most wars throughout history, it’s trivially easy to find accounts written by the losing side. Algeria & Japan have already been raised as examples; add Germany after WWI, Britain re the American Revolution, France re the Napoleonic Wars, both sides of the various Arab-Israeli Wars (going back to the Crusades), the list goes on. It’s slightly more accurate to say “histories written by winners tend to be more popular than histories written by losers.” But even that is a stretch as some of the most popular military narratives have been written by the losing side, ala Xenophon. Honestly, the example of Germany facing their past honestly and taking responsibility for their actions after WWII is by far the exception rather than the rule, and IMO had more to do with post-war revelations about the holocaust than the war itself. [/pet peeve]

    Don’t forget celebrating the Alamo, another historic defeat that is revered in the South.

    I do think the South’s obsession with lost causes helps fuel the whole White Victimhood culture war meme that seems to dominate the right these days.

    deliberate lies are not and should not be treated like speech.

    I sympathize with your frustration, but the “cure” for that is infinitely worse than the disease. The solution is to be vigilant in pushing back against their lies, relentlessly demonstrating how/why they are false. Unfortunately, the truth lost its biggest ally years ago when the media decided that the need to treat both “sides” equally trumped the need to point out obvious falsehoods.

  51. says

    I sympathize with your frustration, but the “cure” for that is infinitely worse than the disease.

    “Infinitely” worse? Really?

    The solution is to be vigilant in pushing back against their lies, relentlessly demonstrating how/why they are false.

    So by that logic, we should get rid of all our slander, libel, defamation, and fraud laws as well. Just leave the victims of such abuses free to push back and spend god-knows-how-much time “demonstrating how/why they are false.” No problem, right?

  52. wscott says

    “Infinitely” worse? Really?

    Giving government the power to outlaw speech that it decides is false? Damn skippy that’s infinitely worse. Tho if you want to be mathmatically pedantic about it, I suppose I’ll cop to “many many many times worse.”

  53. Acolyte of Sagan says

    For a good, authoritive account of slavery’s role in the Civil Way (the ultimate oxymoron), I highly recommend Battle Cry Of Freedom by James M. McPherson.

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