Saturday, March 1, 2014
Yes It Was
Mr. Robert Bateman writes frequently on Charlie Pierce's blog, mostly about the American Civil War. He offered this post free of charge, as a civic gesture aimed at creating in our citizenry at better understanding of American history. I figured it would be ok to repost it here:
The American Civil War is one of the few demonstrable cases in which the losers gained control of the narrative of history. Much as the Nazis developed the myth that the German Empire did not lose the First World War on the battlefield (they did) but instead that their armed forces were, "stabbed in the back" by liberals and Jews on the homefront (they were not), the Confederates in the post-Civil War era managed a concerted effort to conceal the causes of their rebellion. The cause of the war, they tried to claim, was "states rights." They tried to conceal that the cause was actually slavery, and that they themselves had said as much right at the outset. In this, over the course of the past 148 years, they have been depressingly successful. And that is not all.
Neo-Confederates have also tried to push the idea that the rebellion actually had units that consisted of slaves who had been freed and wanted, yes WANTED, to fight for the rebellion. (And that would be, exactly, why?)
This distortion of history and reality has gotten so bad that back in 2010 one Virginia school book was slammed for this gem:
"A textbook distributed to Virginia fourth-graders says that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War -- a claim rejected by most historians but often made by groups seeking to play down slavery's role as a cause of the conflict. The passage appears in "Our Virginia: Past and Present," which was distributed in the state's public elementary schools for the first time last month. The author, Joy Masoff, who is not a trained historian but has written several books, said she found the information about black Confederate soldiers primarily through Internet research, which turned up work by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans."
Let me double-check what we just read there: The "Sons of Confederate Veterans" are the unbiased source of an uneducated-in-history person who is writing textbooks for Virginia, which she found, "primarily through internet research." Whoa. Well done Virginia. But truth be told, there is more to the story, as old as it is today.
"The book also survived the Education Department's vetting and was ruled "accurate and unbiased" by a committee of content specialists and teachers. Five Ponds Press has published 14 books that are used in the Virginia public school system, all of them written by Masoff."
I should note at this point that among her other scholarly works Ms. Masoff also wrote "Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty," which has to have one of the classic covers of all time, and "Oh Yikes! History's Grossest Moments."
While most schools now all use mostly the same textbooks (that was not always true, as there used to be two versions, one for the southern states and one for the rest of the country), many states also choose "supplemental" materials such as Ms. Masoff's. How can anyone wonder why we see such deep divisions when we see children who live south of the Mason-Dixon line are being taught about the war between the states, when they are kids. They learn that black slaves actually fought for the Confederacy (ummm, not true except on the internet), apparently because they loved being slaves so much (we will get to that in a minute), and that the "Sons of Confederate Veterans" are a legitimate academic source. Gang, every actual academic, North or South, or Northwest, Midwest, Southwest, or the loonies in California, agree -- all of that is pretty much complete and total BS.
But when the neo-Confederates come out of the woodwork, like our old friend "General Goodson," we learn all sorts of "facts." Like the idea that the war was not about slavery. Well, no, it was, as they themselves declared at the time. But one need not take my word for that, you can read some of these yourself if you have the stomach.
Mississippi leads the way by being quite direct:
"A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union."
"In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."
While the state of Georgia goes for a slightly less forthright statement, but still one that leaves no question at all, the cause is slavery:
"The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic. This hostile policy of our confederates has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war. Our people, still attached to the Union from habit and national traditions, and averse to change, hoped that time, reason, and argument would bring, if not redress, at least exemption from further insults, injuries, and dangers. Recent events have fully dissipated all such hopes and demonstrated the necessity of separation. Our Northern confederates, after a full and calm hearing of all the facts, after a fair warning of our purpose not to submit to the rule of the authors of all these wrongs and injuries, have by a large majority committed the Government of the United States into their hands. The people of Georgia, after an equally full and fair and deliberate hearing of the case, have declared with equal firmness that they shall not rule over them. A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the Federal Government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia."
And then there is wily old South Carolina, the original secession state. They bob and weave, but in the end they cannot get around what they said at the time. They try to make it about the states in the North not upholding the slavery clauses in the Constitution. Irony alert: In other words, they are against the right of the States in the South to self-determine!
"We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection."
But my all-time favorite has got to be Texas. They not only identify slavery as the issue, then they double down.
"The government of the United States, by certain joint resolutions, bearing date the 1st day of March, in the year A.D. 1845, proposed to the Republic of Texas, then a free, sovereign and independent nation, the annexation of the latter to the former, as one of the co-equal states thereof. The people of Texas, by deputies in convention assembled, on the fourth day of July of the same year, assented to and accepted said proposals and formed a constitution for the proposed State, upon which on the 29th day of December in the same year, said State was formally admitted into the Confederated Union. Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?"
Well, that is clear, but they did not stop there. Nope, they had to take this one to eleven by referring to the "beneficial and patriarchal system."
"…In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States."
"…We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable. That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states."
Feel free to print this out and distribute them as flyers when you bump into a Neo-Confederate. I do.
The opinions herein are those of the author, the Army of the Potomac, the Army of the Cumberland, the Army of the Tennessee, the Army of the James, and every single loyal American soldier who fought in the War of the Rebellion. They do not represent the current US Government, the DoD, the Army, or any unit with which he is affiliated. I can be reached at R_Bateman_LTC@hotmail.com.