Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Revisionist History: Five myths about why the South seceded

One hundred fifty years after the Civil War began, we’re still fighting it — or at least fighting over its history. I’ve polled thousands of high school history teachers and spoken about the war to audiences across the country, and there is little agreement even about why the South seceded. Was it over slavery? States’ rights? Tariffs and taxes?

As the nation begins to commemorate the anniversaries of the war’s various battles — from Fort Sumter to Appomattox — let’s first dispense with some of the more prevalent myths about why it all began.


1. The South seceded over states’ rights.

Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states’ rights — that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.

On Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina’s secession convention adopted a “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” It noted “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” and protested that Northern states had failed to “fulfill their constitutional obligations” by interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage. Slavery, not states’ rights, birthed the Civil War.

South Carolina was further upset that New York no longer allowed “slavery transit.” In the past, if Charleston gentry wanted to spend August in the Hamptons, they could bring their cook along. No longer — and South Carolina’s delegates were outraged. In addition, they objected that New England states let black men vote and tolerated abolitionist societies. According to South Carolina, states should not have the right to let their citizens assemble and speak freely when what they said threatened slavery.

Other seceding states echoed South Carolina. “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world,” proclaimed Mississippi in its own secession declaration, passed Jan. 9, 1861. “Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. . . . A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

The South’s opposition to states’ rights is not surprising. Until the Civil War, Southern presidents and lawmakers had dominated the federal government. The people in power in Washington always oppose states’ rights. Doing so preserves their own.


Read the rest here.

15 comments:

lannes said...

Except perhaps for Lincoln, Northern abolitionists hated everything about the South. And many still do.

August said...

This guy ought to read the congressional record leading up to the war.
The only 'right' point is that Lincoln didn't go to war to free the slaves. He didn't even mention how new territories became states and the friction that arose over that.

lannes said...

So much anger and hatred.

The Archer of the Forest said...

What utter revisionist nonsense. Debates about secession and the right of sovereign states to secede were very much debated and carried the day. For instance, read http://www.amazon.com/Secession-Debated-Georgias-Showdown-1860/dp/0195079450 or the works of fire eaters like Robert Rhett (http://www.amazon.com/Rhett-Turbulent-Life-Times-Fire-Eater/dp/1570034397) State's Rights and Sovereignty was one of his major themes.

Anaxagoras said...

I wish that secession actually worked and that the Union allowed the traitorous and rebellious third world country known as "The South" to be there own entity. Instead so much blood was shed and dollars wasted on reconstruction to preserve this backwards, shameful spectacle dragging the rest of the country down even to this day. Death to the traitors! If only Sherman would have been a little more thorough...

Prior Martin said...

Anaxagoras,

You are apparently a wretched, vile and odious creature! Please stay in the North where you belong.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Anaxagoras currently labors under the sunshine and low taxes of Florida, where I believe his family emigrated from the Worker's Paradise known as Cuba.

There are a lot of lower-income people, including larger concentrations of blacks and Hispanics, in the South and this skews a lot of metrics downward. However, they are here because the low-tax, low-regulatory environment creates lower barriers to entry for employment. The "Blue" states tend to be better places to already have a job, or to be an affluent liberal.

The beauty of our federal system is that one can easily migrate to, say, San Francisco or Manhattan in order to benefit from those polities more enlightened social and fiscal policies. For that matter, Canada with its generous welfare policies and no language barrier outside Quebec is just a plane ticket and citizenship application away.

Anaxagoras said...

"However, they are here because the low-tax, low-regulatory environment creates lower barriers to entry for employment."

Translation: When a Mexican gets shipped to Immokalee, FL in order to spend the harvest season picking tomatoes in the hot sun from 5:30am to 8:00pm for a $40 check and a cot in a cramped trailer with nearly 20 other Mexicans, he does so because such an "employment opportunity" would not be available in the regulatory climate of a place in the Northeast. Plus, they can't grow tomatoes in the winter.

Well, at least the Anti Gnostic's statement was true. Well, partially true. People also move to places where their family moved before. There are a lot of Hispanics in the South and West because it is geographically closer to Latin America, their families moved their before them, and they just settle down where family is. Same with blacks who were set free in the 1860's, moved to the closest town, and settled down.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Anaxagoras - there are interstates and plane routes all over this great land. If families settled in the South, they obviously consider it better than the alternative. Beyond that, you seem to have a quaint view you have of lower-class blacks and Hispanics. I bet they're children in your head.

Speaking of alternatives, if Mexicans are here picking tomatoes 20 to a trailer, it is because our agri-business still treats them better than their own countrymen. Also, it should occur to you that a good way to improve the lot in life of the newly-arrived immigrants would be to have the USG pull up the drawbridge behind them. That way employers cannot just import ever-more poor and desperate Third Worlders to undercut their bargaining power.

You seem never to miss an opportunity to rage against the country your parents chose voluntarily.

Anaxagoras said...

My parents voluntarily chose to be closer to their family. Their family made their choices for reasons beyond me (I can't ask them as they are all deceased). And I don't dislike the whole country. I enjoy the time I have spent around my wife's family in the Northeast. Southern Michigan was also quite nice as I recall. You seem never to miss an opportunity to express the idiotic idea that if someone "voluntarily chose" a housing or economic option - even if all available "options" are terrible - then it must be fair. Your ideas about human volition are simplistic and lack nuance to the point of bordering on the autistic. I don't know why I even engage you.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Hi all. Please stick to the subject in the post and refrain from personal/ad hominem commentary.

Gregory DeLassus said...

What utter revisionist nonsense. Debates about secession and the right of sovereign states to secede were very much debated and carried the day.

I am not sure you are actually disagreeing with the author. After all, he acknowledges that "Confederate states did claim the right to secede..." His only caveat is that "no state claimed to be seceding for that right."

I have not read the two works that you cite. Do you mean to say that those works establish that the states that attempted to secede did so purely or even principally to establish that they had the right to do so? If not, how is this a showing that the author is engaging in revisionist history?

Fr. Frank said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John (Ad Orientem) said...

Again... please no personal attacks. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

If the Southern states seceded today, it would probably be from a tipping point, but the aggression towards them would go back quite far. Let's pretend that that tipping point is gay pseudo-marriage, and the South secedes next week. Southerners would enshrine traditional marriage directly in their constitution, and historians would later say, "Look! These bigots seceded entirely because they hate gays!"

There are tipping points in history. Secession in the South was more than "just slavery." Heh. As if history and complex events can be distilled down to one single cause. I've seen History Channel documentaries with more nuance than that.