Revising Confederate history

April 15, 2010


“We went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the North about. I never heard of any other cause of quarrel than slavery. Men fight from sentiment. After the fight is over they invent some fanciful theory on which they imagine that they fought.” — Confederate Col. John S. Mosby

Ten years ago, I received an e-mail from a reader who signed him or herself “J.D.” “I am a white racist,” wrote J.D., “a white supremacist and I do not deny it.”

From that, you’d suspect J.D. had nothing of value to say. You’d be mistaken. J.D. wrote in response to a column documenting the fact that preservation of slavery was the prime directive of the southern confederacy. “I was most pleased to see you write what we both know to be the truth,” the e-mail said. “I never cease to be amazed at the Sons of Confederate Veterans and similar ‘heritage not hate’ groups who are constantly whining that the Confederacy was not a white, racist government ...”

That argument, noted J.D. with wry amusement, plays well with “white people who want to be Confederates without any controversy.”

It was an astute observation, the truth of which was deftly illustrated recently by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. Seems he issued a proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month in the commonwealth. Said proclamation contained not the barest mention that the confederacy went to war to preserve slavery, an omission that got the governor pilloried in the court of public opinion.

So McDonnell apologized and tried again, inserting into his proclamation a paragraph observing that this Confederacy we are invited to commemorate was built upon an “evil” and “inhumane” practice. That little bit of cognitive dissonance neatly accomplished, the proclamation was duly reissued.

But there’s still a flaw in it. Namely in a line that speaks of how “the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America.” See, no one asked half a million of “the people of Virginia” about joining any Confederacy. As they were owned by their fellow citizens, they had no say in the matter.

And so it goes in the ongoing effort by apologists for the Confederacy to convince the rest of us that an act of high treason committed in the name of preserving human bondage somehow deserves honor and respect. It’s a case that cannot be made on its own dubious merits, so they are obliged to pretend the cause wasn’t what it was, to write slaves and slavery out of the story.

McDonnell is hardly the first. Indeed, the practice is nearly as old as the Civil War itself. Confederate President Jefferson Davis once flatly cited “the labor of African slaves” as the cause of the rebellion. After the war, with that cause repudiated, he wrote, “Slavery was in no wise the cause of the conflict.” It’s a straight line from Davis’ amnesia to McDonnell’s omission.

The governor seeks to render the Confederacy harmless, to be a Confederate without controversy. He seeks to validate the vestigial southern impulse which insists, contrary to logic, that the tragic suffering and incontestable bravery of Confederate forebears must somehow redeem the awful cause for which they fought. But the simple truth is, they do not. Nor can they until or unless we agree to murder memory, to kill recollection of our greatest national trauma, to enter into a conspiracy of romantic lies.

Confederate hero John Mosby, quoted above, understood this. Even J.D., the unrepentant racist, did.

It is past time the entire remnant of the Confederacy, all its apologists and battle flag fetishists, understood it, too. The alternative is to continue insisting upon sophistry as truth, and to periodically embarrass themselves and mystify the rest of us with their stubborn fealty to the stinking corpse of a long lost cause. It is to learn for the umpteen-millionth time what the governor was just taught.

Memory dies hard.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com. lpitts@miamiherald.com


Liberty_One 8 years, 1 month ago

"an act of high treason"

Nope. The states have every right to secede from the union.

"the confederacy went to war to preserve slavery"

Nope. If Pitts would read Lincoln's inaugeration speech, he would see that this could not be the reason. Lincoln promised to sign a constitutional amendment permanently making slavery untouchable. He also promised to strengthen and enforce the fugitive slave laws. In addition, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, all slave states, sided with the North, with the result being that in every single battle of the civil war, slave owners fought for the North against non-slave owners fighting for the South. Further, after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, there were riots in the North since people didn't want to fight a war to free slaves, clearly indicating that that's not what the war was initially about.

There was an intellectual divide over slavery, but while Northern abolitionists talked about the evil of slavery, few actually considered putting an end to it, as is shown by Lincoln's statements in support of keeping slavery. Prior to the 1960s, it was taught in schools that the slavery issue was only one of many factors that lead to the conflict. What Pitts is contending is the revisionist history---that the war was all about slavery.

MyName 8 years, 1 month ago

Saying slavery wasn't the cause of the civil war is like saying the first Gulf War was for freedom, instead of oil. Slavery was central to the Southern Economy. If they had to actually pay the people working in the fields and couldn't work them to death, then they wouldn't have been able to compete in the cotton market and they would have needed to rebuild their economy from scratch. Oil is the same way today (only with a different set of moral problems).

While it is true that the majority of people who fought in the war didn't own slaves, the majority of the people of the U.S. don't own stock in oil companies either, and yet we all understand that it is in our national interest to keep the oil in the hands of friendly governments where it can be sold to us. Add to that the existential problem where you can't have a united government if any one part of the country can came or go as they please, and you end up with the bloodiest war in U.S. history.

Nope. The states have every right to secede from the union.

And now you're the one who didn't read Lincoln's inaugural, as he laid out the justification (both moral and legal) for preserving the union clearly:

"If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it—break it, so to speak—but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?"

Of course, they could forcefully leave the Union without consequences, but the fact that the South lost the war pretty much ended that argument.

mom_of_three 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't know of any northern abolitionist who didn't want to put an end to slavery. It's how to put an end to it that they didn't agree upon.
Lincoln was anti-slavery, but he would do anything to preserve the union, including keep it as it was in the states where it existed. And yes, some slave states stayed in the union, but that does not mean that there were not slave owners for those states fighting for the south.
And the riots that I know about in the North were about draft riots - who didn't feel the poor should have to go to war for what they thought was a rich man's war. There were those in the North who didn't want to fight the war, but the more they heard from their soldiers, who saw the southern plantations and farms with slave labor, the more they agreed they wanted to fight the war. Northern democrats or Copperheads, were a different story.

mom_of_three 8 years, 1 month ago

Lincoln was anti-slavery, but he would do anything to save the union. He also said if he could get rid of slavery, he would, but he would keep it if it meant saving the union.

Cait McKnelly 8 years, 1 month ago

History has been my avocation for over 40 years and I am somewhat shocked at this op-ed piece of Pitts'. I wish he had researched it a little more thoroughly before he wrote it. When the war began it was, simply put, a battle over states' rights vs. Federal rights. At the beginning of the war the issue of slavery, in the South or the North, was neither addressed nor threatened. Slavery was a latecomer to the game. Lincoln didn't sign the Emancipation Proclamation until halfway through the war. Does this mean the Confederacy, as a government, should be "honored" and "memorialized"? Umm, no. (I'm going to be perilously close to committing a Godwin in this next bit but bear with me.) No more than the government of Nazi Germany should be "honored" and "memorialized". The root causes of WWII in Europe at the beginning were economic and political and had nothing to do with Aryanism, Judaism, eugenics or genocide. All of those were issues that arose as the war progressed. One can say that slavery was a cause the South fought for in the second half of the war. The South, by and large, was an agrarian economy compared to the industrialized North. Abolishing slavery threatened their very economic base. But it was still a war over states' rights as the South didn't feel the Federal government had the right to abolish slavery. Again, simply put, the root causes of both the Civil War (which was actually a Confederate term. In the North it was called "The War Between the States") and WWII in Europe were a heck of a lot more complicated than just "slavery" and "Aryanism". That doesn't absolve either government from committing crimes against human rights. I do disagree with Liberty_One on the right to secede. No state in this country has that right. They gave up that right when they agreed to join the Union. Even the much vaunted "right to secede and establish it's own country" bit in the Texas Constitution is a myth. What IS in the Texas state constitution is the right to split into three separate states. But it in no way permits the state to secede.

georgiahawk 8 years, 1 month ago

So what is the difference between fighting over "states' rights as the South didn't feel the Federal government had the right to abolish slavery" and fighting over the issue of slavery. Both are fighting over the right to have slaves or not. The "states rights" argument is just putting lipstick on the pig.

Cait McKnelly 8 years, 1 month ago

Oh I don't disagree with you! It's just that the issue of slavery didn't even come up until halfway through the war.

imastinker 8 years, 1 month ago

Cait - I think that is the first thing that you have said that I agree wholeheartedly with. It's a very common misconception that the civil war was fought over slavery. But, anyone that has read much about this knows better.

explainit 8 years, 1 month ago

While normally I stay out of comment threads (my schtick is occasional long-winded blog posts on Constitutional law), this one's close enough to both my preferred topic and my own heart (American by birth, Southern by the grace of God) that I have to jump in and point out a major problem with the states' rights theory:

Prior to the Civil War, Southern states had no qualms about using federal power to override the will of individual states on the issue of slavery... so long as that power was used to maintain or expand slavery. The Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, the fugitive-slave laws and many other bits of our legislative history were all largely forced by Southern interests and all involved the use of federal power to override or even prevent states' individual choices with respect to slavery (the fugitive-slave laws, for example, forced all states -- even those which had chosen to abolish -- to continue respecting and upholding slavery within their borders).

Tellingly, it wasn't until the tide began to turn against them -- after the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 established the right of new states to choose their positions on slavery, bringing Kansas in as a free state -- that Southern leaders began to rally around the cause of "states' rights".

MyName 8 years, 1 month ago

No, they're the roots of yesterday's Democratic party. They left for the GOP 50 years ago.

Willful Ignorance of U.S. Political History for the loss.

ferrislives 8 years, 1 month ago

And all of those racists moved to the Republican party after the civil rights bill was passed. So what? Now they're on your side.

Rex Russell 8 years, 1 month ago

True about the Democratic party roots and Southern roots. But that is intentionally half the facts. In the late '60 after the Civil Rights Era, allvthe Dixiecrats switched to the republican Party in protest. And thusly why we have had a strong southern twang to the Republican Party for the last 40 yrs.

ivalueamerica 8 years, 1 month ago

So, basically, Tom is proud that he is NOT one of the racists Pitts has pissed off. He is a racist content with this commentary.


pooter 8 years, 1 month ago

The Civil War was all about slavery.

It marks both the end of one type of ownership and the beginning of another, the eventual enslaving of the entire citizenry to the Federal Government.

There are no free men.

Instead of being free, we are now all slaves and the Fed is our master.


bruno2 8 years, 1 month ago

The dems of that day were clearly a different group of folks with a different ideology than the dems of today. Look no further than the south's swing to the elephants over the civil rights issue in the 60s. What party fought for segregation, the last vestige of slavery?

Kirk Larson 8 years, 1 month ago

Of course you're wrong, but not so wrong that you entirely miss the facts. The Northern republican party was against slavery, but not always for the best reasons. They saw how the North had industry and the South had ag/slavery. They knew you can't bring the cotton fields to the North, but you could sure build a factory in the South. And with slave labor in factories, the South would have the advantage. Slavery had to end to protect White Northern Wealth and thus was born the republican party of today.

cowboy 8 years, 1 month ago

Talk to any population who lost a war and for generations there is bitterness and resentment. Keep this in mind as you do / don't pass along your bias / prejudice to your kids and grand kids.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

Try as some of you might, you will not change the fact that the Civil War was almost exclusively about slavery. And it wasn't so much about abolishing it in the states where it already existed in 1860, but rather whether or not the institution of slavery would be extended into new states on the western frontier, including Kansas, thus changing the balance of power between slave and free states.

"Mr. Pitts, let's all rejoice in the fact that the Confederacy (roots of today's Democratic Party) lost."

Yet another stupid yet superficial comment from Tom.

Brian Laird 8 years, 1 month ago

They didn't have to - the segregationist came to them. After the Dixiecrats split off from the Democratic party in 1948, a significant number of them eventually joined the Republican party which made them feel very welcome - especially after the Civil Rights legislation in the 60's. Remember who was the presidential candidate of the Dixiecrats in 1948 - Strom Thurmond, who switched to the Republican Party in 1964.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

They didn't need to splinter to do it, but they absorbed most of the segregationist wing of the Republican Party, starting with Nixon, and completing the process with Reagan/Bush/Bush II.

But that doesn't fit with your fairy tale history books, does it?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"but they absorbed most of the segregationist wing of the Republican Party,"

That should have read "but they absorbed most of the segregationist wing of the Democratic Party,"

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

An emotional argument never let's facts get in the way.

Dem/Lib - good Repub/Con - bad

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

In other news: “A graduate student was gunned down in Centennial last fall by a juvenile gang member who followed him to get money, according to fellow gang members quoted in court papers obtained by 9News. Despite the first-hand reports and admissions from the alleged gang members, no one has been arrested in Andrew Graham's murder early Nov. 6. "This is an ongoing and active investigation," said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson. "We will do it right, and right often doesn't mean quick. But it will be right." The 23-year-old graduate student was targeted because the Denver-area Crips gang wanted to rob a "white" person, and Graham "looked like he might have money," according to affidavits in support of a search warrant. Graham's body was discovered in the front yard of a home in a neighborhood near Park Meadows mall. He was headed home after looking for a place to live in Boulder, where he was to take part in a new master's program for mathematical engineering at the University of Colorado. In a polygraph interview with Denver police Dec. 9, alleged gang member Clarissa Lockhart said she and four other gang members followed Graham after he got off the light rail and went down a busy street for two blocks. Lockhart said gang member Allen Ford spoke to Graham. She said another gang member nicknamed "Baby Low" then shot and killed him. The alleged killer's full name is in the affidavits, but 9News is only reporting his nickname because he was a juvenile at the time of the crime and has not been charged. “ http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14887366

ferrislives 8 years, 1 month ago

For those who want to deny that slavery was a major reason for the civil war (among others), I have some beautiful land in the Florida Everglades that I'd like to sell you.

You can try to rewrite history all you want. Everyone knows the truth, and no matter how much you try to erase that part of the C.S.A.'s cause, it still sticks for a reason.

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

History ain’t what it is. It’s what some writer wanted it to be. (Will Rogers)

oldvet 8 years, 1 month ago

Funny how Pitts and his cronies want to continue to talk about an illegal practice that was abolished by law in the United States 150 years ago but choose to ignore slavery that exists today in Africa... maybe because that would mean they would have to point out that black Africans are the ones holding other black Africans in slavery? And he can't point out the failings of other blacks...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

Did you even read the commentary, oldvet? Pitts didn't just bring this up out of the blue. It was in response to the attempt by the idiot Virginia governor's attempt to celebrate and sanitize the Confederacy by ignoring the fact that it came into existence almost exclusively as a means of defending and preserving the institution of slavery.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

I (heart) bozo when he goes to name-calling. He's just such a cuddly little thing.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

It wasn't name-calling. Just accurate description.

But given that even he is likely your intellectual superior, I'm not surprised that you are unaware of that fact.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

"It wasn't name-calling. Just accurate description." Keep digging yourself in deeper, bozo.

bruno2 8 years, 1 month ago

"And he can't point out the failings of other blacks..." oldvet, sometimes BS is just that, BS, other times it is ignorance. On May 5, 2009, Pitts wrote, "If so, he's hardly alone in his ignorance. A generation of apologists for the wannabe nation symbolized by that flag has done an effective job of convincing the gullible and the willfully ignorant that neither the nation, the flag, nor the Civil War in which both were bloodily repudiated has anything to do with slavery. It's just "heritage," they say, as though heritage were a synonym for "good." As though Nazis, white South Africans and Rwandans did not have heritage, too." Note he slams the black African Rwandans into the same category of contempt as the Confederacy, Nazis and Apartheid South Africans. The man calls a spade a spade, regardless of race. Disagree with his opinion if you wish, but get your facts straight before you slander a good man. As I am fond of saying, A**holes come in all colors!

oldvet 8 years, 1 month ago

note... he says "white South Africans and Rwandans"

Do you see a specific reference to blacks? He does not... nor will he...

bruno2 8 years, 1 month ago

Vet, you are still sooo wrong. Goggle Pitts' column on Blacks defeating Prop 8. He blasts them. And yes, he calls them blacks and shames them for intolerance. Like I said, back up your BS or back off.

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

A Man only learns by two things, one is reading, and the other is association with smarter people. (Will Rogers)

gogoplata 8 years, 1 month ago

We are the only nation that had to fight a war to end african slavery. If slavery was the main issue it could have been ended by means other than war.

Lincoln should be called the great centralizer rather than the great emancipator.

I hate the idea of slavery and I hate racism but trading one evil for another is not a good deal.

We traded slavery for a federal government with too much power that used federal troops to burn cities, rape women, murder civilians, suspend habeas corpus, and imprison those with dissenting views.

So it isn't paranoia when you hear these militia guys talk about wanting protection from the federal government. These things have already happened in America.

pooter 8 years, 1 month ago

Now that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has issued the proclamation when do the celebrations begin?


tolawdjk 8 years, 1 month ago

Attempting to avoid the obvious partisan sniping that is going on here.

I read a most interesting article a couple months ago in the Winter 2010 edition of Military History Quarterly entitled "Getting Away with Murder" by Thomas Fleming. This article discussed the murder of one Union General, General William Nelson, by another Union General, General Jefferson C. Davis (no relation to the Confederate President).

It does a fairly decent job, in my opinion, of laying the groundwork and discussing the precarious balance of opinion within the Union in the early Civil War period. Chiefly, and I agree with it, the cause of the war, entirely depended, and depends upon whom you ask. You will find individuals, and opinion on both sides that state the reason is slavery, and you will find Union histories of the time saying it was preservation, and Confederate histories that state it was state's rights. To objectively ignore all opinions, and attempt to use the events of the day does a complete disservice to the magnitude of the event.

1862 saw an upswing, politically, of the Abolishtionist wing of the Republican party, such to the point that Lincoln felt he could use slavery as a weapon against the south without political ramifications in the north. The Emancipation Proclimation was a war measure, first and foremost. To my recollection, the Emanicpation Proclimation gave the seceded states until January 1, 1863 to return to the Union -or- the slaves would be freed. I don't believe it went into any detail on what might happen should those states return by that date and the furter document in 1863 specifically exempted the border slave states that were still Union and the parts of Virgina that were on the way to becoming West Virgina.

It disgusts me that people have attempted and continue to attempt to subvert history to suit their own personal agendas. Teh VA Gov was wrong to omit slavery, and it is possible to see hwo someone could take the opinion that even his remedy lacked sincerity, however, it is just as assinine to spew forth the indefensible position that the Civil War was only about slavery. The South had maintained a slave economy because the conditions of the time demanded and allowed it. They did not have the raw material base or infrastructure to develop an predominant industrial base, and cotton won't fricken grow in Massachusetts. John Deere didn't exist yet, and cotton harvesting is a manpower intensive endevor.

Anyway, I digress. If anyone has access to MHQ I highly suggest the article as it gives a wonderful window into the divergences within the Union at the time, even amongst the military.

Cait McKnelly 8 years, 1 month ago

As I said in my post above; the root causes of the Civil War were a heck of a lot more complicated than just slavery. It's simplistic at best to say so and borders on revisionism.

gatekeeper 8 years, 1 month ago

"The South had maintained a slave economy because the conditions of the time demanded and allowed it. They did not have the raw material base or infrastructure to develop an predominant industrial base, and cotton won't fricken grow in Massachusetts. John Deere didn't exist yet, and cotton harvesting is a manpower intensive endevor."

So it was ok for them to use slaves so they could sit back, make lots of money and not have to pay for labor to harvest cotton? They could have paid workers. They chose not to. They could live a more luxurious life by enslaving people. Hmmm, live a good life and not enslave fellow man or abuse your fellow man so you can sit back on your *ss in your plantation?

Chris Golledge 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't think he's saying it was right, just that that is why they did it. There are lot of people who do a lot of things, for what to them are compelling reasons, that aren't right.

BigPrune 8 years, 1 month ago

If it wasn't for the Civil War, Pitts wouldn't be writing or getting paid for his column. He has a lot of Republicans to thank.

Cait McKnelly 8 years, 1 month ago

For the Republican Party of today to take credit for what the Republican Party of Lincoln did is pretty ridiculous. The Republican Party of Lincoln believed in a strong, central, unified Federal government; hence the name. Get that to wash with today's Republicans. It's odd but in many ways the philosophies of the Democrats and Republicans of the Civil War years have flipped parties.

BigPrune 8 years, 1 month ago

That sounds like history revisionism.

Chris Golledge 8 years, 1 month ago

The Republicans he has to thank are long dead.

Yoda51 8 years, 1 month ago

We go to war and the victors get to write / rewrite history. And today's historians rewrite the past to suit the arguments of the guys who picked the fight. The Civil War (or The War Between the States ) and the current wars all bear a striking resemblance to each other. They were and are being fought to preserve a way of life at somebody else's expense.

Paul Simon said it best when he sang: So God bless the goods we was given And God bless the U.S. of A. And God bless our standard of livin' Let's keep it that way And we'll all have a good time

While I salute our soldiers, pardon me while I snicker at the righteous pomposity of our leaders!

georgiahawk 8 years, 1 month ago

What is funny and ludicrous is that you believe what you say!

gogoplata 8 years, 1 month ago

The truth is that both Democrats and Republicans love the party of Lincoln because almost all of them believe in a strong central government.

The tea party people should be just as enthusiastic about getting big government republicans out of office as they are big government democrats.

It would be nice to see all democrats and republicans voted out of office and replaced by independents, greens, libertarians, etc.

Vote the bums out.

tbaker 8 years, 1 month ago

Could not agree with you more gogoplata. People who vote for incumbants - of any party - have no right to complain about the federal government.

gatekeeper 8 years, 1 month ago

My husband's family is originally from the south. In the late 1600's or very early 1700's, they were granted land in SC from the King and started a very large slave trade and their own plantations. They then expanded into other southern states. There are still squares in a couple of SC towns dedicated to his family and what they did for SC. They have a very extensively written family history that details their "business". It's horifying. There are also diaries and other documents that talk about the war. Believe me, these people fought over the right to keep their slaves.

I visited Monticello recently. The house and gardens are beautiful. Those that take the time to go on the slave tour and learn about the lives of Jefferson's slaves (Jefferson was one of the biggest hypocrits in the history of our nation) leave Monticello with a different view on American history and slavery. I had read a lot about slavery (in books and from the family history), but walking in the footsteps of Jefferson's slaves provided a reality slap that most don't get to experience. And Jefferson treated his slaves so much better than most did. You can't leave there without feeling the despair and agony that the slaves felt.

Those that say the civil war wasn't about slavery are blind. Those that defend anyone celebrating the confederacy need to take the time to actually go to plantations that focus on the slaves and learn the true brutality they endured. I get so enraged when I see someone with a confederate flag on their car. They're either completely ignorant or totally racist (probably both).

bruno2 8 years, 1 month ago

So true Gate. I did some work with the state government in Mississippi a couple of years ago. The confederate flag is still a part of their state flag that flies over all the government buildings, disgusting. I also noted that most blacks I met in the halls of those buildings still avert their eyes and look down when spoken to by a white and mumble "yes sir" and "no sir" in response to questions. I'm not talking about janitors here, these were people in suits and ties or professional dresses and pant suits who obviously had positions of importance. It made my skin crawl. The past is still very much the present for both blacks and whites down there. The scars are deep on their souls.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

We must continue to punish ourselves for the sins of the White Devils.

Chris Golledge 8 years, 1 month ago

Even if you argue that Lincoln went to war to preserve the union (and not to end slavery), that still leaves the question of why did the south leave the union. My understanding is that they felt that the practice of slavery was necessary to support their way of life, and free states (non-slave holding) were interfering with the practice of slavery, and the federal government was not doing anything to prevent it.

""No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."

Is, or was, part of the US constitution. Technically, the other states, and the federal government itself, by not enforcing the return of escaped slaves, were in a breach of contract, but the fact remains that the breach was specifically in the area of slavery. You can argue the diversion all you want; the root cause remains the differences over slavery.

John Hampton 8 years, 1 month ago

cg22165 - "My understanding is that they felt that the practice of slavery was necessary to support their way of life, and free states (non-slave holding) "

The Union had slaves. Delaware, a Union state, was the last state to make slavery illegal in December 1865 after the 13th Amendement to the Constitution was ratified and proclaimed. The Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 and 1863 (part II) only freed slaves in Confederated occupied and controlled states. Slaves were not freed in Union controlled lands as in New Orleans and parts of Tennessee.

There is a flawed and wide misconception that the Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves, when in fact it was still legal to have slaves in the north. The fact that slavery was only outlawed in the south speaks to the need to cripple the CSA to aid the Union in winning the war.

While it is true that slave owing wasn't as wide spread in the north compared to the south, this was primarily due to the need for manual labor on farms (south) vs. semi-skilled or skilled labor in industry (north). There were, in fact, riots by the lower class Irish in New York City, after the Emanicpation Proclamation, who felt they would lose jobs to these newly freed and north moving slaves.

Chris Golledge 8 years, 1 month ago

Fair enough. There's no rule that people, or groups of people, have to behave consistently.

But, that doesn't change why the southern states seceded or what was the final result after the war. The southern people with power and money lost their way of life, and people with more than an average amount of melanin in their skin were no longer subject to being slaves. Sure, there are other factors, and the real changes were not uniform or all at once, but were there any changes that had more impact those?

I suppose you could argue that the war was a result of northern states wanting to undermine whatever power the southern states had, and that freeing the slaves was just a means to that end, but that is more cynical than I care to be today.

ferrislives 8 years, 1 month ago

Hey snap, black Americans didn't bring up an anti-Confederate day. This "Confederate History Month" was proclaimed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and that is why it's in the news.

If you want to discount good dialog such as gatekeeper's post at 2pm, then that shows how completely ignorant you are. Only someone like you wants to remember all of what you perceive as the great things about the Confederacy, and none of the bad ones.

You should change your name to "snap_to_judgment".

3crookedhearts 8 years, 1 month ago

I'm sure some of you could be delusional enough to argue that WWII started because Hitler didn't get into the Academy of Fine Arts. If you think that slavery wasn't the root cause of the Civil War and are trying to argue differently, you're simply wrong. All explanations for the war have always involved or revolve around the idea of slavery.

John Hampton 8 years, 1 month ago

Why was a northern state the last to make slavery illegal? After it was written into the US Constituion?

Why was slavery only made illegal in the Confederate held territories on January 1, 1863?

Why was the Capitol Building dome in DC being build by northern slaves while slaves in South Carolina were proclamed "free" in 1863?

I'm confused that if the war was truely over slavery, why was it ok in the Union states and Union controlled territories but not in states still at war with the north?

Chris Golledge 8 years, 1 month ago

OK Boston, why did the southern states secede?

3crookedhearts 8 years, 1 month ago

Boston, no disrespect, but none of the points you make (true as they are) have nothing to do with the root causes of the Civil War. I think the answer to your question is quite simply hypocrisy on the part of some Union lawmakers.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 1 month ago

Let's get down to serious business.

It's time to revise the reasons for the war in Iraq.

Mike Ford 8 years, 1 month ago

actually shewmon, the dixiecrats you refer to are now south white republicans like haley barbour, jeff sessions and the like. harry truman forced the thurmonds, helms, wallaces, and faubuses, to leave the democrats and eventually bring together the godlicans and states rightslicans to the denying history bunch of wingnuts that exist now. I lived in LA and Miss in the 1970's and 1980's and saw theses nuts as they left the klan and my family moved north. I have mississippi confederate soldiers in my extended familie's history on one side and ohio unionists on the other.

gatekeeper 8 years, 1 month ago

Boston Jayhawk - here's your history lesson. You are only giving a small, skewed version of the history here.

Keep in mind, DE was a border state. You now think of it as being The North, but it was a border state. You want to know why it was the last state, read about it. Lots of details. Lots of politics was the root cause. http://www.slavenorth.com/delaware.htm

They didn't have many slaves up there and more free blacks worked for a living than there were slaves. As of 1840, only 13% of the states blacks were slaves. The rest were free. Slave importation into DE was banned in 1776. Proportionately, DE had the largest free black population of any state.

DE and the other border states didn't try to secede. The states that did had the largest slave populations and were the hub of the slave trade. Those states that wanted to secede were the first targeted by the E.P. And the slaves were only freed in those states once Union forces took them over.

You're question about the capitol dome is flawed. The Freedom statue was hoisted on the 2nd Capitol dome in 1863. The slave labor that was used for working on the capitol was rented labor from contractors in VA. Yes, it is sad that slaves were half of the workforce that built the Capitol and WH, but most of that work was done before the Civil War and the 2nd dome was finished before the end of the war and the passing of the 13th amendment..

The war was about slavery. Face the facts. They were concerned about economic losses (from having to pay for labor instead of having slaves) and they also feared racial equality. The Texas Declaration of Causes for Secession stated the non-slave-holding states were "proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color", and that the African race "were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race". Alabama secessionist E. S. Dargan warned that whites and free blacks could not live together; if slaves were emancipated and remained in the South, "we ourselves would become the executioners of our own slaves. To this extent would the policy of our Northern enemies drive us; and thus would we not only be reduced to poverty, but what is still worse, we should be driven to crime, to the commission of sin.

Chris Golledge 8 years, 1 month ago

"...but what is still worse, we should be driven to crime,.."

Oh, that's good. It's OK to force someone to work and take all the benefits of their labor, but it's not OK to steal. Very nice.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

I won't argue that the war wasn't about slavery, but I'll always stand behind my belief that sherman was a terrorist and lincoln was equally guilty. True southerners will never forget what those two men did and will never forgive them.

Wars are easy to win when you starve women and children and force your enemy to exit the battlefield to protect their families..

Yoda51 8 years, 1 month ago

"I won't argue that the war wasn't about slavery, but I'll always stand behind my belief that sherman was a terrorist and lincoln was equally guilty. True southerners will never forget what those two men did and will never forgive them.

Wars are easy to win when you starve women and children and force your enemy to exit the battlefield to protect their families." ~ Liberty275

Kinda like what Dick Cheney and his sidekick George W. Bush did in Iraq?

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

I love a dog, he does nothing for political reasons. (Will Rogers)

John Hampton 8 years, 1 month ago

gatekeeper (anonymous) says…

Boston Jayhawk - here's your history lesson. You are only giving a small, skewed version of the history here.

So it's ok for the north to have slaves as long as it's not very many? Or, that it's some insignificant state such as Delaware? And as long as those fighting you don't have any themselves to help fuel their cause?

It's ok that New Orleans had slaves because it was already under Union control?

Slave labor is ok to use as long as it's rented? Really? And yes that was during the war "against slavery" ... well documented in text, legal documents and photos. My argument is not flawed, it's simply facts as they happened.

Gotcha... it was just hypocrisy.

Tell us about the race riots in the northern city of New York City after the EP involving main Irish workers aimed toward the freed slaves.

Your research is thorough, but don't forget this quote from Secretary of State William H. Seward commenting, "We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free."

I believe that inevitably the north was right and on the correct side of the conflict, I just don't agree with the way most people get to that point of view or the misinformation they ingest and believe that gets them there.

If it's not good for the goose it's not good for the gander... no matter how you spin the reasoning.

md 8 years, 1 month ago

The people that call other people racist are fools with no real argument.As having a degree in American history I agree with the history channel magazine--it was slavery!

denak 8 years, 1 month ago

Apparently, Fredrick Douglas. Fredrick Douglas and Abe Lincoln had a very unusual and deep friendship. Reportedly Fredrick Douglas was instrumental in relaying to the President the necessity of ending slavery. Lincoln, who was morally against slavery, still was pragmatic about the chances of ending slavery and still perserving the union. Preserving the union was always Lincoln's priority. I think it is erroneous to say that slavery wasn't the primary reason for the Civil War and that Lincoln didn't meantion it at the start because it was unimportant to him. It was a primary reason and it was important to him. He was just handicapped in what he could do because of the constitution.

Douglas and Lincoln worked closely together to bring about the end of slavery, sometimes with Douglas "bullying" the more pragmatic Lincoln but both had enormous respect for each other.

So much so that after Lincoln was killed, Mary Todd Lincoln sent Douglas her husband's walking stick, a memento that Douglas treasured for the rest of his life.


independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

Abe Vigoda didn't say that.

Abe Vigoda did say, Clinton's a schmuck."

Now, who's with Abe?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"Now, who's with Abe?"

Quite apparently, you, at least in his most expediently racist moments. Is your racism borne out of pure expediency, or is it genuine and "heartfelt?"

(And something gives me a feeling you have no connection with Chuck Meade's band.)

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

You got to sorter give and take in this old world. (Will Rogers)

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

Q The reason's for the Civil War? Short answer, many.

Brent Garner 8 years, 1 month ago

When I was in public school we were taught, universally, that slavery was the sole cause of the Civil War. It was not until I was an adult that I learned that there were truly multiple reasons. One reason, among many, was an economic one and it does not relate directly to slavery nor even indirectly. As everyone knows the North was a manufacturing economy while the South was agrarian. What does not seem apparent to everyone is a basic problem that created. The North wanted to sell their manufactured goods in the South. But, at the same time, similar or the same manufactured goods could be imported from England for less cost. This upset the Northern manufacturers and bankers who persuaded Congress to impose a tariff. This tariff made the Northern goods less expensive than the imported British goods, but it also meant those in the South now had to pay more for what they had been getting. This angered many in the South and was seen as an almost imperialistic treatment of the agrarian South and contributed to the growing anger and assertion of state rights.

Oh, and the riots cited in Mr. Pitts piece were not over the abolition of slavery, they were over Lincoln's imposed conscription--read that as draft--to raise a large enough army to take the fight to the South. Lincoln even had to send federal troops into New York to maintain order. He nearly ended up with a rebellion in the South and a rebellion in New England.

3crookedhearts 8 years, 1 month ago

But @bkgarner, wasn't the South's agrarian economy dependant on slave labor to function properly? The economic concerns you address are indirectly related to slavery. If they were paying for their labor to harvest their cotton, they'd have been in even worse shape. The war was about slavery. Directly and indirectly.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

Worth repeating: • jkealing (Jonathan Kealing) says… bronze- I've warned you privately, now I'll warn you publicly. You do not have bearded_gnome's name correct. If you don't immediately cease to attempt to out an anonymous user, your account will be banned. In addition, I will immediately ban any account I suspect to be created by you without notice, warning or further cause. This is your final warning. Jonathan Kealing Online editor Why has paulette2 lasted this long?

feeble 8 years, 1 month ago

The following is an except form a speech given by Alexander H Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America. His speech (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornerstone_Speech) declared that slavery was the natural condition of blacks and the foundation of the confederacy.


"The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew." Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone 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. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.."

feeble 8 years, 1 month ago

If you read the Declarations of Secession offered by many of the States, you will also see how important slavery was to the States. For example, Texas:


"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 [emphasis in the original]; 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. "

feeble 8 years, 1 month ago

bkgarner (Brent Garner) says…

When I was in public school we were taught, universally, that slavery was the sole cause of the Civil War. It was not until I was an adult that I learned that there were truly multiple reasons. One reason, among many, was an economic one and it does not relate directly to slavery nor even indirectly

In today's dollars, Slavery would have been a $75 Billion dollar industry. Slavery was the very foundation of the Southern agrarian economy.

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

Confucius perspired out more knowledge than the U. S. Senate has vocalized out in the last 50 years. (Will Rogers)

georgiahawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Down here in the south they call the civil war the "War of Northern Aggression"! Quote from the southern general on Bullwinkle (can't remember his name) "There was nothing civil about it!"

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 1 month ago

The economy of the confederacy was based on slavery. So yes, the civil war was in part fought over economic issues, those being a slave based agrarian economy versus a non-slave based industrial economy.

Slaves were central to the economy of the confederacy.

It is tragic and laughable that the revisionists want to downplay slavery as an issue that permeated every aspect of the civil war, including moral, economic, intellectual and the future of the USA.

The confederacy were wrong. They fought. They lost. The USA is better for it. Get over it.

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