From Mississippi’s Letter of Secession; c. January 9th 1861:
“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.”
From Alabama’s Letter of Secession; February 4th, 1861:
“And as it is the desire and purpose of the people of Alabama to meet the slaveholding States of the South, who may approve such purpose, in order to frame a provisional as well as permanent Government upon the principles of the Constitution of the United States”
Who else is sick and tired of watching uninformed people claim that slavery had little or nothing to do with the Civil War? Who else is fed up with people thinking they can wave a Confederate flag around and it doesn’t have any undertones of racism?
The bold words in the excerpts are all you need to know as to whether or not Confederate states left the union over slavery, and they are just excerpts.
Many of the letters contain multiple references to slavery, and the threat electing Abraham Lincoln was to the institution of slavery. Over time there has been a concerted effort by slavery apologists to throw cold water on the notion that the Civil War was fought over slavery, but instead of over states’ rights.
Carrying around a Confederate flag now means nothing but “I’m cool with slavery.” It doesn’t mean you’re a rebel. If it’s a rebel flag you want to tout, how about this one:
The fact these letters of secession exist, and that they contain direct language referencing the practice the slavery, proves that the Southern states’ primary impetus for breaking the union was to protect the slave trade.
Yes, they can claim it was economics, but it was the economics of slave labor. They can claim it was states’ rights, but it was the states’ rights to own black people. You cannot extricate the issue of slavery from the Civil War.
Flying a confederate flag is a declaration to anyone who sees it that you sympathize with the Southern cause in the Civil War.
Sure, you in your own mind and heart may justify flying the flag because of “tradition” (a tradition of owning black people), “heritage” (the heritage of slave-owners), and “cultural pride” (pride in the culture of slavery), and maybe deep down you don’t hate black people. But that doesn’t mean the confederate flag isn’t a symbol of some of the most atrocious and dehumanizing behavior ever perpetrated on this continent.
No, Abraham Lincoln did not wage a war to end slavery. In one of the most quoted passages of Lincoln’s prose, he wrote in a letter to Horace Greeley, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”
Many who disavow the importance of slavery to the Civil War will point to that quote as direct proof that he only cared about freeing the slaves when it became politically acceptable, and when the war effort needed it. That is not wholly untrue, but it’s also very simplistic. Lincoln, it’s true, was not abolitionist, and he never advocated for full-equality of the African-Americans in this country. He also did advocate shipping all the free slaves to Liberia, rather than assimilate among a populace Lincoln presumed could not possibly evolve fast enough to not murder free slaves by the wagon-load. It’s also true the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all the slaves, just slaves in certain areas, so that they could ostensibly sign-up to fight the South.
What Lincoln was, then, was a flawed politician, limited by the education and social mores of his time.
He was cynical, and he was a shrewd political mind. Lincoln saw the preservation of the Union as being more important than freeing the slaves, but none of this means he approved of slavery either. There are literally dozens and dozens of quotes from the man where he plainly lays out his opposition to it, such as this one:
“I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.”
When you fly your confederate flag you aren’t taking a swipe at a war mongering tyrant who tried to squash the rights of the individual. You’re declaring yourself on the side of the people who left the country specifically to keep practicing the slave trade. Now that we’re about 150 years out from the war, you’re not even referencing Lincoln — you’re perpetuating the mindset that allowed the Southern states to think they had a divine calling to protect slavery.
Some argue as they fly their confederate flag that many in the South who fought against the North were too poor to own slaves. Those good ol’ boys were just standing up for what they believed in — their states’ own sovereignty.
I say “Fuck that shit.”
When those states entered the pact known as The United States of America they gave up their individual sovereignty to the supreme sovereignty of the The United States of America — willingly. If you want to change that, get an amendment to the Constitution ratified and make that change. You won’t.
I’m all for states’ rights because I believe that state government can be the lab where new paradigms get introduced to the Federal government. Legalized marijuana and LGBT equality issues — like marriage equality — are two brilliant ways to point out how important it is for there to be a separation between Federal and state governments.
Just invoke Godwin’s Law right now and do it with a massive grin on my face:
There were many, many Nazi soldiers who never personally gassed a single Jew, gypsy, homosexual or mentally or physically disabled person either. So basically what you argue, when you say that Southerners didn’t all own slaves if they fought in the confederate army is, “They were just following orders.” Does that make southern confederate soldiers the original morality-blind Nazi stooges?
Fuck yes it does.
Follow James on Twitter @JamboSchlarmbo.