Sunday, June 14, 2009

Slavery and Republican Revisionist History

Holocaust deniers are not alone in their fantasy histories. Republicans trying to rekindle talk of secession are redefining the American Civil War to claim that the South seceded in 1861 for "States Rights" and slavery wasn't the reason.

The Revisionist History Claim
According to the Revisionists, the South was simply exerting their freedom from Northern oppression. It was State's Rights, not slavery. Douglas Harper, published here in the Old Virginia Blog, tries a scholarly approach. Hidden behind endless hemming and hawing, Harper states that the Civil War was really caused by the Morrill Tariff. He minimizes slavery as an issue. Harper is answered well by M. Lynch in Past in the Present.
But the Southern confederacy -- that is, the national government of the CSA -- was no more built on slavery than was the Northern Union. ~ Douglas Harper
The revisionists know they have to address slavery. Pat Buchanan claims slavery was really a good thing.
First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known....Where is the gratitude? ~ A Brief for Whitey, March 2008
Others make the unsupported by any facts whatsoever claim that the South would have ended slavery itself if the Northern bullies had only left them alone.
Slavery could have been ended within the Confederacy, as it had been throughout most of the Western world by that time. In fact, some have pointed out that if Lincoln had let the Southern states succeed (sic), slavery would have ended rather quickly, as there would no longer have been any voice in Congress to support the fugitive slave laws, and the border states would have become sieves for runaway slaves seeking freedom. ~ Midwest Catholic Dad
To finish the current argument that secession is good, secession is right, the revisionists have to attack Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, they say, was a horrible president, a tyrant, kind of like Aldolf Hitler.

None of This Is New
Interestingly, the current crop of pro-secessionist Republicans are simply repeating the excuses that ex-Confederates gave in the 19th century. Called the Lost Cause Religion, it was created by General Jubal Early after the Civil War and had all the components of the current crop of pro-secessionists.
The first is political, insisting that the cause of the war was not slavery but the oppressive power of the central government, which longed to tyrannize over the Southern states. The South desired merely to exercise its constitutional right to secede, but was thwarted by a power-hungry Lincoln. ~ The Lost Cause in Retreat
Like their 19th century predecessors, current secessionists believe in States Rights except when they don't. When Northern states used their sovereign right to ignore the Fugitive Slave Act, Southern States Righters were outraged.
In many of these [Northern] States the fugitive [slave] is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. ~ Christopher Gustavus Memminger of South Carolina, December 1860
When Blue States legalize gay marriage, Republican States Righters want the Federal Government to step in.
Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman. ~ Proposed amendment to the United States Constitution
The Truth
In 1860-61, in speech after speech, Southerns placed the reason for secession squarely on preserving slavery.
The day is now come, and Alabama must make her selection, either to secede from the Union, and assume the position of a sovereign, independent State, or she must submit to a system of policy on the part of the Federal Government that, in a short time, will compel her to abolish African Slavery. ~ E.S. Dargan, Alabama, January 1861
[Our government] foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. ~ Alexander Stephens, Vice- President of the Confederate States of America, the Cornerstone Speech, Georgia, March 1861
The systematic, wanton, and long continued agitation of the slavery question, with the actual and threatened aggressions of the Northern States and a portion of their people, upon the well-defined constitutional rights of the Southern citizen; the rapid growth and increase, in all the elements of power, of a purely sectional party, whose bond of union is uncompromising hostility to the rights and institutions of the fifteen Southern States, have produced a crisis in the affairs of the country. ~ Governor Isham Harris, Tennessee, January 1861
I could go on. And don't think for a second that race hatred and this country having an African-American president isn't an unspoken part of the modern secessionist movement.
Civil rights legislation was just the beginning of the government’s involvement in the management of our personal property. ~ State Secession and the Coming Civil War, April 27, 2009
States Rights was a codeword for racism in 1861. It was a codeword for racism when used by Jubal Early in the 1870's. It was a codeword for racism when Ronald Reagan used it in the 1970's. It is a codeword for racism today. White racists, mostly but not exclusively Southern, see their last, faint hope for a return to the good old days ending and they want out.

The return to States Rights and secession is the last gasp of an old philosophy. It is a wish for a country where Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics can be kept in a lower caste. It is a secret longing for a day when Nathan Bedford Forrest can again be called a hero.


Callimachus said...

You, sir, are an idiot. That piece was written in 2002, long before Barack Obama became president of anything. Here's the original, with timestamp at bottom:

Furthermore, no one says the Morrill Tariff caused the Civil War -- the post correctly identifies it as passing after thesecession, not before it.

knighterrant said...

My point is unchanged. The current Civil War revisionists are resurrecting old lies to justify the idea of secession.

It doesn't matter if Harper's piece was originally published in 2002 or 1872. It was republished by Old Virginia Blog in June, 2009.

Two, the Morrill Tariff was proposed in 1860 and passed six weeks before Virgina voted to seceded. Harper suggests (he states nothing outright) that States Rights and tariffs were more a cause of secession than slavery. That is simply wrong.

My point remains. Current secessionists are trying to rewrite history to justify secession and are using 19th century segregationist arguments to do it.

Yes said...

It is so excellent to know that there are people whom know what the civil-war was really about: SLAVERY and if there like you said was State's Rights, it was the state's rights to own black-people as slaves.

SO both Civil-War revisionists and Holocaust deniers need to come to reality and not try to change history with they're delusional historical-fantasies!!!

Anonymous said...

Here is a site that uses primary sources. These sources (from the time preceding the Civil War) also state that Southern people made no bones about the fact that they wanted to sucede from the Union due to slavery. Revisionists be damned.

Anonymous said...

Callimachus is none other than Doug Harper.

He wrote a book on slavery in the north, and his method to "publishing" it was, post it on-line. Was he able to find a publisher, or did he try. Considering his bio list four books published by two historical-societies, probably no reputable publisher would touch it.

His "book" mentions the slave ship the "Wanderer", partly to re-enforce his thoughts about northern complicity in the slave trade. He provided a small list of references in the section where he inferred the Wanderer was a "northern slaver". In his version, he mentions it was built in NY, fitted out as a slaver there, and then somehow forgets to mention some highly relevant facts specifically mentioned in one of the references he cited.

The Wandered was built in NY, although it was built for a Louisians sugar planation owner who made big bucks in that buisness, at times living in NY and New Orleans. He took it on at least one cruise to N.O., then sold the vessel to a group of southerners who then had it modified for use as a slaver.

Harper's misuse of references he cited and not providing the full story is intellectual dishonest, particularly from someone who in his bio claims to be a "historian."

Do a little checking on who he is, other things he written, and another web-site he operated, and his "lost cause" view of the Civil War and antebellum South isn't as neutral as he pretends to be.