by Daniel Barge
With the recent attacks on Southern identity, which some have likened to cultural genocide, there has been a lot of talk recently about Southern pride, history, and honour. Those who are attacking the South in the guise of the Confederate flag and other monuments of the Civil War claim that the Confederacy was all about slavery, and therefore an evil entity, not unlike Nazi Germany.
To back this up they refer to the famous "Cornerstone Speech" by the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, delivered at the Athenaeum in Savannah, Georgia, on March 21, 1861. In this speech Stephens pointed out something that, to his contemporaries, must have seemed rather obvious:
“Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man...”Among those contemporaries, we must include Abraham Lincoln, and we can also include many people from our own era; White Liberals, for example, who continue to attest to the unequal nature of the Black man by continuing to avoid him, his neighborhoods, schools, and social life.
|Paternalistic: Alexander Stephens|
By contrast, those conservatives most keen to defend Southern identity against the attack on its historical foundation, tend to deny the element of slavery and emphasize instead that the Civil War was mainly a "heroic struggle" for states’ rights, in the same spirit as the American Revolution. Their most damning piece of evidence is that Abraham Lincoln's freeing of the slaves was clearly an afterthought, coming along well after the war had started and mainly as a measure to destabilize the South.
Although the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1862 (effective 1863), legislation abolishing slavery was only passed by Senate and Congress in 1865. The Emancipation Proclamation did not outlaw slavery and did not grant citizenship to escaped slaves, but it incentivized them to desert their masters, thus draining the South’s labour pool, and thus serving a useful military function in helping to undermine the Confederacy.
Children today are taught that the war was started in order to abolish slavery and create a state of racial equality, but there is simply no sign of the North doing this until near its end, so it erroneous to call this a "war aim" and the basis on which the war was fought. Indeed, one wonders how would things would have transpired if the Rebellion had been crushed in its first year?
But those who try to defend the South by claiming that the Confederacy was not about slavery are also being disingenuous. Without the difference in attitudes to slavery between the North and the South, it is unlikely that America would have embarked on a war that killed so many of its young men – more than were killed in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam combined!
In short, those who say the war was fought for state rights and those who say the war was fought to create a racially equal society are both equally wrong.
To anybody familiar with the speeches of Abraham Lincoln, his real war aims are clear. Here is his most famous pronouncement on the subject from the Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858:
"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything." (my italics).From this and similar statements, it is clear that, although Lincoln disliked the institution of slavery, he had no intention of freeing the slaves in order to simply create a racially equal society. The only reason people even believe that, is because they have only been fed the narrative that there were only two simplistic options – freeing the slaves or not freeing the slaves – and, obviously, in modern America you can only morally accept one of those options as just and pure.
This means that if you feel a need to defend the Confederacy, you are forced to totter backwards on your heels and mutter your "states rights" mantra, while mumbling about how slavery was regrettable and would have been abolished anyway. Not really a firm front line against those damned Yankees!
|The leader of the "Back to Africa" movement.|
Lincoln’s favored solution throughout his career was colonization and resettlement of the slave population overseas. In this he followed the opinions of his political role models Henry Clay and Thomas Jefferson. In 1824, in a letter to Jared Sparks, Jefferson had written the following about America's Black population:
"In the disposition of these unfortunate people, there are two rational objects to be distinctly kept in view. First. The establishment of a colony on the coast of Africa, which may introduce among the aborigines the arts of cultivated life, and the blessings of civilization and science. By doing this, we may make to them some retribution for the long course of injuries we have been committing on their population. And considering that these blessings will descend to the nati natorum, et qui nascentur ab illis, we shall in the long run have rendered them perhaps more good than evil…. The second object, and the most interesting to us, as coming home to our physical and moral characters, to our happiness and safety, is to provide an asylum to which we can, by degrees, send the whole of that population from among us, and establish them under our patronage and protection, as a separate, free and independent people, in some country and climate friendly to human life and happiness."In line with such thinking, in 1854 Lincoln said that the best thing would be "to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia," a state that had been created in Africa in 1821 for the purpose of removing Blacks from America. In 1862, when Lincoln met a delegation of ex-slaves at the White House, he suggested resettling Blacks in Central America, an idea that Jefferson had also considered.
|The genocide of Whites in Haiti.|
Lincoln’s actions in committing his nation to four years of horrendous bloodshed only make sense in the light of a declared and implicit policy of racial separation. How else are we understand these actions in the light of his own words? To repeat:
"...there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."Having read this, how can anyone say there was any essential difference between how Lincoln viewed Blacks and how Alexander Stephens did? Even though they believed in different solutions, they obviously believed in exactly the same problem.
Perhaps if Lincoln had not been shot, he would have revived this narrative and worked towards the realization of his original war aims. As it was, following his assassination, the weak presidents who followed him were incapable of solving the problem or even attempting to, allowing instead Carpet Baggers and the Ku Klux Klan to impose their own ad hoc solutions, which were then connived at by landowners and business interests willing to maintain America’s racial fracture in pursuit of cheap labor and narrow profit.
|An ad hoc solution for the problem of non-repatriation.|