While I am fully aware that history is written by the winners, all I ask for is a little historical accuracy in my propaganda. Did slavery play a part in the divisions that led to the civil war? Yes… but only insofar as they played a large part in the economy and culture of the southern states. As for the northern states… well we will get to that. As this is something that I have studied extensively from a historical, philosophical, and anthropological perspective… I’m afraid I can’t just let it lie there. Anyone who knows me is well aware that racist is the last word that could be used to describe me to the point that I refuse to even defend myself on that front. If my words can’t be seen as a mere overview of historical realities easily researched… cool beans. I strongly encourage anyone with an interest to actually dig and challenge these assertions because it is easy to do the research. I also don’t care much what people think about me. As an addendum to that, it is not my goal to change opinion or even to educate so much as it is to convince people to think enough to go research things on their own. It is only through personal examination and research that truly independent thought and knowledge bloom.
The Civil War was a matter of Sectionalism. There was a schism between the southern and northern before the war for Independence. The economy, geography, and culture were vastly different. Many concessions had to be made in order to even bring the southern colonies on board because they were never enthusiastic. Many of those concessions had to do with States Rights… including checks and balances that would prevent a large and (as the southern colonies saw it) potentially tyrannical central government. From the very beginning, there were whispers of secession, and as a random point of history – that is the meaning of the 2nd Amendment (it is not an excuse for the average individual to keep high powered assault rifles) – as our government was shaping into something that the southern states didn’t like. This can be looked at several ways.
Socially – they both thought they were on the side of angels (most do). The South believed that they were holding true to the Republican values of the founding fathers and that the North was quickly changing and embracing radical new ideas. This has some merit. Washington, Jefferson, and Madison at the very least, owned a significant number of slaves. While the South had dug in with its plantation based economy and spread into free-land such as Louisiana and Texas, the Northern states had switched from a rural to an urban landscape. Abolitionists had gotten a decent foothold in many northern states. The north had fully entered into a period of industrialization.
Politically – Upon gaining the large land mass of territories that would become the rest of this nation, the issue of states rights, individual freedoms, and slavery became big ones. There were proposals that the federal government decided what was legal for the whole of the territories and it didn’t take much to know that decision would serve as precedent for the federal government deciding what was legal for existing states. Here is where history has liked to rewrite itself though. While slavery was used as a wedge issue, it was for economic reasons – I’ll get to that in a second – rather than as a humanitarian one. Yes, abolitionists existed and were even politically active by this time… but the northern states were far more afraid of being taken over by the southern states than they were against slavery. The northern states were economically hurting – severely – and propaganda used by the abolitionists (not saying they were bad people but history is history folks) said that the southern states would use their portable and liquid assets to simply take over, just as they were taking over territories. THAT is why the federal government had to be the one to decide what happened in the territories and that was why the southern states had to be suppressed.
Economically – This is the big one! The north had invested fully in industrialization and was, in a word, broke. It was urban, supporting far too many people, and had too much overhead for its exports. Europe had industrialized quite some time before and didn’t need to import our goods but we needed a market. On the other hand, because of over-crowding, geography, and urbanization… the north desperately needed raw goods… they wouldn’t be able to produce anything if they didn’t have the raw materials. Importing them would be astronomically expensive – yet they didn’t have them on hand. Now… the south had a very different economy. They had natural resources and raw materials in abundance… but they had an advantage. Both the north AND Europe needed raw materials – esp after the slave revolts in the West Indies. They could sell cotton, tobacco, tar, timber, and other labor intensive cash crops to whomever they wanted for top dollar. They needed to import manufactured goods… and they were cheaper if they were domestic. This economic issue was why the northern states were terrified that the southern states would take over… it was a hysterical reaction to economic distress and the propaganda that the southern states would bring their natural resources and their money and just steal the industrial means. Likewise, the southern states were having just as hysterical reaction to the north’s poverty… fearing that the government would simply seize the natural resources and raw materials to feed the industrial machine. Tensions were mounting and when political bombs were being thrown into the fire… the election of President Lincoln as the representative of the very party that suggested that the federal government should determine the laws for the entirety of the territories, proposed heavy taxes and tariffs on the exporting of raw materials to force the south to trade with the north, and a party that was heavily into the very propaganda that had whipped up the hysteria of the south… they decided that the only option for them was to suceed.
Now… it would be really really easy for me to insert a really long argument here about why I think that states have the right to suceed but as that actually isn’t my point, I’m going to show some discipline.
The war – The North did not pick this war or even this fight… the South did. Why is that important? Because the North did not enter the Civil War to free slaves… the North never would have entered the Civil War at all if left to their own devices and with no Civil War… the legislation re: slavery in the territories is questionable, but they certainly never would have passed a referendum or an amendment banning it all together. That had never been the North’s goal. Slavery would have been allowed to die a natural death. After the fight was picked… the already strained economy in the North was suffering badly… especially when they could no longer get the source materials for their own exports without paying premium import prices. The South was not having economic problems. Their wealth was in land and human trafficking by and large. They traded with Europe and if they had to pay a bit more for manufactured goods – they were willing to do without some things and pay more for some things. There was another BIG problem. Because this was a fight started by the South, they had plenty of men who wanted to fight it. That was not true of the North. Again, with the issue of most Northerners not caring about the South, slavery, or any of it… the North was forced to conscript – take emigrants fresh off the boats, utilize the draft… riots were being fought over the war in the North. In the beginning… it looked very much like the South was going to win.
A very good strategist, Licoln got a very good idea.
1. Pump up the propaganda portraying the South in a negative light and appealing to the abolitionist movement to defend a protracted war that many were saying should be abandoned.
2. Impose a scorched earth policy to attack the South on their own land – destroying crops, equipment, housing, and most importantly… confiscating property.
3. Conscript slaves to rise up and fight (either as Union troops or as freed property rising against land owners as had happened in the West Indies…)
The Emancipation Proclamation was born… and doesn’t say what most people think it does. It did not make former slaves citizens. The primary purpose was to enlist “suitable” persons into the Union forces. It did not require owners to free their slaves, nor did it justify slaves rising against their owners. Union soldiers used it to sieze slaves from the property of conquered plantations. The “suitable” persons were put into the ranks… where they were not given weapons or uniforms. They were treated as camp workers and slaves for the Union army. Those who were not “suitable” were set free and left to do whatever they could to survive without means or protection. It was designed to create chaos and division. Additionally, the Emancipation Proclamation did not include Union States or any State that was not still actively fighting… meaning that any state not still actively trying to succeed in 1863 was not included – and in many cases, slavery was still legal in those states. The Emancipation Proclamation came THREE YEARS into the Civil War and even then… it did more to damage slaves and race relations than it did to help them. It was used as a weapon in the Civil War. It was aimed to cripple the economy of the Deep South and to break them.
As we all know… the North won. What does that actually mean to us today though? I get personally offended by the propaganda surrounding the Civil War on many levels. I’m southern for one thing. I’m not a racist, for another. The North not allowing the South to suceed did more to damage race relations and caused more harm than good. The Restoration of the South is a laughable term… the only way that people can understand it in modern terms is to say that we have already rebuilt New Orleans after Katrina. It would be well over 100 years before African Americans had the right to vote, share a bathroom, or even marry into other races. In the South, things were specifically done right after the Civil War to increase resentment and tension between the two races in order to make sure that there could be no healing between the divide. It was not just in the South though. The North… the vast majority of whom didn’t even want to be in the Civil War, had now been led to believe that the abolitionist movement was key. More riots. Free African Americans being hung, beaten, and always treated as well below even the lowest class of citizen. It was the larger Northern narrative that “good men had gone and died to keep free those worthless — “. And here we are today… in a society that is still divided over this issue… a society with a serious race problem that can’t be addressed because no one can openly talk about it without being attacked. Even the cold facts of history have to be redacted to fit the narrative because goddess forbid we actually face the past in order to have a future.