Monday, December 13, 2010

How to avoid Incorrect Thoughts about the Civil War

Well, we are always looking for opportunities to congratulate ourselves on our Moral Superiority. Now that we all worship at the double altar of Tolerance and Diversity, we must mark every opportunity to trumpet all the ways in which we are Tolerant. And all the ways in which we are Diverse.

In doing this, we must make very sure that we clean up our history to show that we have always been this way. This involves, of course, forgetting ways in which we have not really been. And this also involves telling ourselves over and over again how good we are and how good we have always been.

Now that we are approaching the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we must remember to be very Correct in all of our recollections of what happened in that unfortunate eve ..., or, rather, that Great And Glorious Crusade. We must always remember that all northerners were morally pure and that all southerners were bad, bad people.

Already we are seeing this process in action, and we must congratulate the Associated Press for passing along the comments of Bob Sutton, chief historian for the National Park Service, who reminds us that "Slavery was the principal cause of the Civil War, period." The story appears in yesterday's Lexington Herald-Leader, where we are reminded, in no uncertain terms, that the Civil War was about slavery.

The idea is to make sure we understand that the North was categorically against slavery and that the South was categorically for it, and that this was the only important reason for the War.

To say that the cause of the Civil War was anything else is a very serious Thought Crime.

This is very important, and we should all begin a regimen leading up to the anniversary in which we repeat to ourselves every day: "The North was good, the South was bad." Just do it over and over again, and you will soon purge all doubts from your mind.

We realize that, in every other circumstance, we are reminded by the Cultural Authorities not to look at things in a "black and white" way and that history is "more complex" than we think. But it is important to remember that this rule does not apply when it comes to the Civil War and the issue of slavery.

Now, of course, in doing so, there are certain things that we must banish from our minds: things that must be put down the Memory Hole. They are thoughts based on so-called "historical facts" that, unfortunately, authorities at the Ministry of Truth (with offices at your nearest college campus) have neglected to eliminate from the historical record.

We will be listing these unfortunate historical anomalies in the coming months, so that we can, through the helpful process of Doublethink, eliminate them from our conscious mind.

Let us start with the first of these things. This is a very unfortunate historical anomaly, and it involves Abraham Lincoln. Now fortunately most popular historical accounts portray Lincoln in the proper Historically Correct way as a Crusader Against Slavery and as the man who wanted the War so he could Eliminate Slavery. But if you look hard enough, you can still find some of these "historical facts" that do not comport with this view. Until they are fully eliminated by the Diversity officials in our academic institutions, we must make sure we look the other way whenever we encounter them.

Here is Lincoln, in his inaugural address, given on March 4, 1861, 41 days prior to the beginning of the Civil War:
Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States, that by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property, and their peace, and personal security, are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed, and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that:

"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this, and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And more than this, they placed in the platform, for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves, and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

"Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes."

I now reiterate these sentiments; and in doing so, I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible, that the property, peace and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause -- as cheerfully to one section as to another.
Now I think you will agree that this is quite disturbing. It does not at all go along with Lincoln as the Crusader to Free the Slaves that we have all learned from the Cultural Authorities. So, until we have eliminated all references to this document our documentary histories, we must simply look the other way when we see such things.

If we encounter them, we must simply repeat our mantra: "The North was good, The South was bad." Repeat it however many times you must until the Incorrect Thought goes away.

There are other things in the First Inaugural Address that might undermine our feelings of Moral Superiority over those who try to point to such things, but we must deal with these one at a time so as not to cause needless doubts in our own minds about the Historically Correct opinions that we are obliged to hold as Enlightened Liberals.

We will be giving updates and news flashes, as the anniversary approaches, of other unacceptable facts and some further steps we can take to protect our Moral Superiority.

Stay tuned.


Art said...

I would think that the Vice President of the Confederacy would know from whence his nation came:

"But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. 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. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails...."

Yeah, right, Martin. The Civil War was not about slavery. It was about, um, er, ......

Singring said...

Martin Cothran denies that slavery was the primary cause for the Civil war.

Now I've truly seen it all.

One Brow said...

It's not the first time he has addressed it.

Anonymous said...

When we went through this before I posted excerpts from varius states' succession documents where they mention protection of slavery was the reason they were leaving the Union. Martin never seems to learn anything here.

Martin Cothran said...

Good job guys! Keep the focus on the specific statements by several of the southern states which were blatantly about slavery, and try to keep the attention away from Gen. Sherman's analysis of the situation, which was that the South was using the slavery issue, not because it was the cause of the war, but as what he called a "pretext" for the rather self-serving economic interests of several of the Southern states.

One of the advantages of not talking about things like this is because then we would also have to call General Sherman some kind of pro-South extremist, which, I think we would have to admit, is clearly absurd.

Also, keep the focus off the North itself. There are all those statements from Lincoln and numerous others that the war was not about slavery, but about the union. And make sure we never talk about the fact that at any point during the war, any Southern state could come back into the Union and keep its slaves--even after the Emancipation Proclamation.

It's important to ignore this because it could make people think that the North wasn't fighting the War over slavery, but because of Union, and it would be kind of silly to argue that when Lincoln continued to repeat that they could keep their slaves as long as they came back to the Union.

Keep with our Historically Correct narrative: that the North was trying to take the South's slaves away, and the South had to secede in order to keep them (and for crying out loud, don't make any references to the Corwin Amendment).

I am feeling Morally Affirmed about myself even as I write. Isn't great to be liberal?!

One Brow said...

... we would also have to call General Sherman some kind of pro-South extremist ...

While I freely admit to not be familiar with Sherman analysis (do you have a link?), should I trust his analysis over the statements of the varous states and high-ranking members of the Confederacy about the reasons the Confederate states succeeded?

Also, keep the focus off the North itself.

I fully acknowledge that the North was not primarily concerned about slavery at the beginning of the war. The North did not succeed, though. It's motive are not relevant to the motives of the Confederate states.

If there is no southern succession, there is no North motivation to prevent succession. Slavery was teh principle cause of succession, and therefore the principle cause of the attempt to prevent succession.

Do you seriously teach your students that if A causes B and B causes C, you can't say that A causes C?

Andrew said...


I don't like your tone. You are obviously trying to provoke and putting complex things in simplistic terms. The south seceded because the north threatened their way of life, understood. That way of life was understood, however, to be based on slavery. If the slaves were released, which they did fear, the southern way of life would have come to an end.

I think to really understand this incomprehensible development we have to study the election campaigns and votes much more closely.

Also, it was 150 years ago today that a committee of 33 in the congress pretty well gave up the idea of preventing SC from seceding through resolutions of peace and things like that.

That raises another important point. Not all of the southern states seceded for the same reason. SC did because that's the sort of thing that SC did and always has done and always will do.

VA didn't secede until much later, largely because SC attacked Ft. Sumter, the very basic mistake by Jefferson Davis that contained every stupid thing he did thereafter.

But if you are going to argue about whether slavery was the cause, you need to use some stasis and get a little more specific. What exactly are you talking about? Why are you trying to provoke us? What is your real point?

KyCobb said...


The issue here isn't "North good, South bad", its about whitewashing history to pretend the South seceded for noble reasons, rather than the reality of the fact that the purpose of secession was to perpetuate and expand the institution of African slavery.

The South clearly understood the implications of the fact that Lincoln was elected president without receiving a single electoral vote from a slave state. The GOP was committed to the policy of preventing the expansion of slavery to the territiories, which was a major issue in the 1860 presidential campaign because the Democrats favored allowing popular sovreignty. GOP victory meant that each new state added to the Union would be free, making the slave states smaller and smaller minorities in the Union, which the South believed could only ultimately result in the abolition of slavery where it existed, despite the protestations of Lincoln that he had no such intent (but many in the GOP did).
It is absolutely true that Lincoln fought the War to preserve the Union, and he would have accepted the slave states back without requiring the emancipation of the slaves during the first two years of the war. However there was never any realistic hope that this would happen because the leaders of the Confederacy were committed to the cause and had absolutely no interest in returning to the Union under any conditions, and also because there was a large and growing faction in the North committed to abolition. Thus the War inevitably became a long-term campaign to conquer and subjugate the South, which could only result in the abolition of human slavery. You can admire the bravery of southern soldiers, many of them fighting to defend their homes or because they were drafted and owned no slaves, and you can admire the tactical genius of their Generals, though that is overstated, but its pure bs to pretend that the ruling class of the South started the Civil War for any purpose other than to protect and expand their investment in their primary source of wealth, millions of African slaves. The South fought for the freedom to oppress a huge segment of their population (in the 1860 census, the population of S.C. was 57% slaves).

Andrew said...

Here's the Charleston courier from December 11, 1860 in response to the efforts of northerners to find "an adjustment":

"Admitting however, the adjustment of terms acceptable in themselves, the great question would present itself: "What guarantees can be given?" What pledge, or token, or earnest, or covenant could be offered more obligatory on the North and more satisfactory to the South than those which have been violated again and again by the North? The great compelling cause of separation is broken faith, and the first and essential preliminary to a consultation, with a view to adjustment, is a mutual appreciation of faith between the opposing parties. The North, at least that portion east of the Hudson river, cannot give guarantees of good faith sufficient even to open a consultation."

The South wanted to keep slavery and was willing to fight to do so, no doubt. But the context is also important. The North formed a union with the south in which they agreed that the south could keep slaves.

Then from the 30's to the 50's they began to implement policies that undercut the southern economy and way of life.

The south, we now realize, was wrong to keep slaves. The north, we need to admit, was wrong to break faith.

Andrew said...

ky cobb,

Do you apply your closing sentences to every state in the confederacy or the original seven? It's obviously true of those (insert vile word of your choice here) South Carolinians. But I don't see it applying to VA, at least not in such sweeping terms.

Martin Cothran said...

I guess we're finally getting behind all the oversimplifications here. To simply say that "slavery was the cause of the Civil War" is a gross oversimplification of what happened, but an oversimplification that serves the self-esteem needs of a few people in whose interest it is to see the whole conflict as a black and white one and who think they too are wearing white.

But to close the deal on establishing their morally superior view, they can't simply stop at proving that slavery was wrong (it was) or that the South was culpable for it (it was) or that there were many interests in the South to whom slavery was the most important issue (there were).

They have to show that the reason for the Constitutional crisis was that the South was in danger of losing its slaves before the war (it wasn't), and that the Southern state seceded because they feared losing their slaves (they didn't), and that the North joined the war and prosecuted it because its chief concern was freeing Southern slaves (it didn't).

And it doesn't resolve any of these questions to self-righteously say that anyone who brings these things up is "defending the Confederacy" or "apologizing for the South."

The South was guilty of harboring an inherently evil institution. Period. Issue settled. But to then oversimplify the whole crisis by pretending that everyone in the South was fighting for slavery or that everyone in the North was fighting against it (and didn't have any involvement in it themselves) is a little absurd.

The only issue regarding slavery before the war was whether it could be expanded. That was it. No one was talking about freeing slaves in already existing slave states except the abolitionists who had no way to bring that about and whom Lincoln himself called "radicals." Lincoln said on numerous occasions that he was not interested in doing that. And during the war he said any of the slave states could keep their slaves as long as they came back to the Union.

Slavery was the cause of the Civil War only in the minds of people who don't know what actually happened or who know it and have their own self-righteousness to further.

KyCobb said...


"The north, we need to admit, was wrong to break faith."

No, it wasn't. Just because a previous generation agreed to protect a morally indefensible institution doesn't mean that later generations have to abide by that agreement. The Fugitive Slave Act was evil, and northern efforts to subvert it cannot be considered wrong.

Martin Cothran said...


I agree with you that the Fugitive Slave Act was evil. But can you tell me when it was repealed?

One Brow said...

The only issue regarding slavery before the war was whether it could be expanded. That was it.

There were also the issues of fugitive slaves. Southerners may not have feared a rapid loss of their slaves constitutionally, but they certainly feared things like mass abandonment by the slaves. Also, in country where they would eventually be outnumbered by more than 3-1 in state count, it would become possible to enact amendments to the constitution against their will on slavery. They feared this long-term occurence as well.

Your statement is at least as dishonest as anything that claims the North was fighting to end slavery.

KyCobb said...


You are correct that everyone in the North was not fighting against slavery and everyone in the South was not fighting for it. If you can point to anyone actually making that claim, I'd be glad to agree they are wrong.

However, you are wrong in believing that the South was not in danger of losing their slaves before the war. They knew they were in the long term, and that is why they left the Union. The 1860 election showed they were so weak politically they couldn't block Lincoln's election, and that weakness would only get worse as more and more free states entered the Union. They knew that eventually there would be enough free states to pass a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. Lincoln was not an abolitionist, be he did support gradual, compensated emancipation which would have freed all the slaves by no later than 1900. The writing was on the wall; the Southern leadership seceded and fought the Civil War in order to maintain the institution of slavery in perpetuity.

Martin Cothran said...


What was the Corwin Amendment?

KyCobb said...



Martin Cothran said...


You are correct that everyone in the North was not fighting against slavery and everyone in the South was not fighting for it. If you can point to anyone actually making that claim, I'd be glad to agree they are wrong.

You are severely understating the case here. Not only is it correct to say that not "every in the North was ... fighting against slavery," but the official policy of the North was not anti-slavery.

If it was, then they wouldn't have waited until 1864 to repeal the Fugitive Slave Act. In fact, the act was actively enforced through most of the war.

KyCobb said...


it was a proposed amendment to the Constitution to prohibit the amendment of the Constitution to abolish slavery.

KyCobb said...


I merely agreed with your statement, so if anyone severely understated the case, it was you. The abolitionists were in the minority in 1860, but they were a powerful and growing force in the GOP, and the Southerners were certainly aware of that fact. Do you really believe the South left the Union because slavery wouldn't be allowed to spread West, and not because they recognized that the eventual emancipation of all slaves in the Union was inevitable?

Seeker said...

Ever hear of the Southern Ultimatums to spread slavery?

We hear a lot of what Lincoln said to this person or that -- but what did the SOUTHERN leaders say, officially. Repeatedly. Loudly.

What was the first thing Southern leaders did in Montgomery, after they created their Confederacy?

They issued five ULTIMATUMS to the North. Everyone should know this, yet it's almost never spoken of.

Southern Newspapers, proudly and loudly, reported these Ultimatums on page one. Richmond Newspaper headline about the Ultimatums was "THE TRUE ISSUE".


All five Ultimatums were about the spread of slavery.

None of their ultimatums were about anything OTHER than the spread of slavery.

Not one word about state's rights -- in fact, the Ultimatums are a violent attack against states rights. The FIRST Utlimatum was that slavery must be spread into the "territories" (they meant Kansas).

Kansas, of course, had just fought a bloody war (successfully) against slavery. The people of Kansas had just voted 98% to 2% to keep slavery out, forever.

If state's rights were an issue, seems that Southern leaders would respect the state's rights of Kansas. Hardly.

Hardly! The Southern Leader's FIRST Ultimatum was to FORCE slavery into Kansas!

The SECOND Ultimatum was that Kansas had to "RESPECT" slavery! It wasn't enough that the first Ultimatum was to force slavery in there by force -- but Kansas better RESPECT it!

Martin Cothran said...


Yes, I agree. That second ultimatum was a doozy. Now, are you aware that the Fugitive Slave Act, which require the return of fugitive slave to their masters was in full effect--in the North--when the war started?

In other words, this demand had already been met in 1850, eleven years prior to the war?

Can you tell me when it was revoked?

Martin Cothran said...


Who said, "Slavery is not the cause but the pretext," in regard to the Civil War?

a. Southern extremists trying to hide the true cause of the war
b. Robert E. Lee
c. Sen. Stephen Douglas
d. Gen. William T. Sherman
e. Uncle Remus


KyCobb said...


Sherman was also sure that the Confederate army was entrenched in Corinth the night before Albert Sidney Johnston attacked at Shiloh. The South's economic interest was slavery. The South had most of its wealth tied up in African slaves, so protecting slavery were it existed and spreading it to the territories was its economic self-interest.