Every so often I will go somewhere and someone will see the tattoo on my right arm and scowl at me, or say some derogatory comment about it. When they do that it doesn’t bother me, at least not personally; I can take pretty much any shit that someone heaps upon me. What bothers me is the fact that they believe the lie that the Confederate Battle Flag represents prejudice and racism, and that the Civil War was fought over slavery.
Far too many people in this country allow their ideas to be formed by watching some documentary, listening to some instructor, or by reading some book about whatever subject that interests them regarding a historical event.
Know this: If you base your opinions on a subject based upon any of those things, you are basing your opinions upon the opinions of somebody else, not upon the facts; and that includes if you base your opinions upon what I say or write. The only way, and I mean ONLY way that you can be sure that your opinions stand on solid ground is if you have done your research; read the source documents and look at the actions taken by the participants of a particular event.
That is why I can tell you, without any doubt, the Civil War was not fought over the issue of whether to end or preserve slavery in America, and therefore, the Confederate Battle Flag does not represent slavery and prejudice. Now the interference in the expansion of slavery into new states, and the refusal of some in the North to return escaped slaves to their masters may have been a factor in the decision of some of the Southern States to secede, but it WAS NOT why the war was fought.
To understand why I say this one must take a thorough look at slavery itself; and not its moral implications. Listen, I think slavery of any kind is evil; which is why I oppose our government, because it enslaves each and every one of us regardless of the fact that we get to vote for our masters.
Slavery in America was not limited to the 13 British Colonies, it was practiced by the French and Spanish Colonists as well. For instance, going back to 1632 the French began the practice of slave labor in the territories they inhabited in the New World. Slavery in the British Colonies dates back to the establishment of Jamestown, the first British Colony in America. I’m not justifying it, just saying it had been around a long time before the Civil War was fought.
When the British Colonies began considering independence the Second Continental Congress appointed a Committee of Five to draft a declaration stating America’s intent to separate from Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to be the primary author of this document. In Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence Jefferson decried the institution of slavery, and laid the blame for it at the feet of the King of England. Yet Jefferson’s words were too harsh for the Committee of Five, and they removed that wording from the final draft.
You may, or may not have known something, but I’d bet there is something you did not know; that of Committee of Five Jefferson was the only Southerner; the remaining members were all from the North. Those members were, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman. So here we have an instance where a Southerner is decrying the evil of slavery, while we have five Northerners saying, “Damn Jefferson, you can’t say shit like that.”
In any case slavery existed at the time of our Revolution, and later, when the Constitution was being written. In fact, it was a Northern Colony, Massachusetts, that became the first Colony to pass legislation legalizing the owning of slaves. This happened when Massachusetts passed its Body of Liberties in 1641. In fact, at that time Massachusetts was the leading importer of slaves into the Colonies; but that would change over time as tiny Rhode Island soon took over 90% of the slave trade for all 13 Colonies. If you’ll notice, both are Northern States.
Then along comes James Madison and his gang of scoundrels and shysters, who gathered together in the city of Philadelphia to undermine and overthrow the Confederacy established during the American Revolution. Now these crooks had the perfect opportunity to do what was right and introduce wording into their proposed system of government that would have abolished slavery if this new system of government they were proposing were to be accepted. Instead, they chose to not place such wording in their document because it would make ratifying it much harder in the South where slavery was necessary for the Southern economy.
Now I need to divert from my intended subject for a moment to explain something. The Southern economy was primarily agricultural and there were many large scale plantations, (farms if you will) that required a large labor force to maintain. Again, I’m not justifying slavery, just explaining the facts of the situation. So now these large plantation owners had a choice; either purchase slaves, or hire white workers to work their fields and harvest their crops.
White workers could quit at any time, and imposed a heavy burden upon the owners of these plantations; meaning their profits would not be very good if they had to pay their labor force a steady wage. Slaves, on the other hand, required a one-time fee for their purchase, and after that all they required was food and shelter to maintain. So slave labor was more cost effective for them; which is why so many slaves worked in the South in the fields. Having made that purchase, those slaves became their property, (as evil as that idea may be), so when one of those slaves escaped it is logical to think that the owner would want his property returned to him; which some in the North were increasingly unwilling to do. This meant that the farmers had to manage their farms with one less worker, or go out and buy another.
As evil as slavery is, I would like for you to consider the subject of illegal immigration for a moment. Many of these illegal immigrants work the fields harvesting the produce you find on the shelves in your supermarket. Being here illegally means that the farmers can pay them far less than what they would have to pay white workers under our labor laws; not to mention they don’t require any of the other impositions, such as workman’s compensation insurance.
I wonder, among all those who decry the influx of illegal aliens into this country, how would they feel if illegal immigration just stopped and white folks had to work the fields and do the backbreaking work these illegal aliens currently do? I also wonder, how would most Americans feel if they went to the supermarket and saw a 150 – 200% increase in the cost of their produce after the farmers had to start paying a ‘living’ wage, plus all the government required programs like workers comp?
So yeah, slavery was evil, but I sure haven’t read of any massive migration of Northern workers who wanted to move South and pick cotton or harvest tobacco. Those plantation owners had farms to manage, and unless white folks were willing to do the backbreaking work to maintain them, they needed a slave labor force.
Another thing was, the Northern textile mills required the cotton they produced to make the wool they sold and used to make garments. So the North wasn’t particularly interested in introducing wording into any proposed plan for a system of government that might cause their textile mills to shut down, or lose the one commodity they depended upon to dry up; not to mention all the profits being made by Northern ship owners off the importation and sale of those slaves.
So the North was just as much to blame for the institution of slavery as those who used those slaves as a labor force. If we’re gonna be truthful, we gotta accept the facts regardless of who those facts make look bad.
So when the proposed Constitution was being argued behind closed doors in Philadelphia, it was decided not to introduce wording which would abolish slavery. What was argued over was whether slaves would count towards representation in the lower house of Congress. This was a key argument that almost led to the dissolution of the convention and was settled when the 3/5’s clause was introduced; meaning slaves would count as 3/5’s a person when doing the census and determining representation in the House of Representatives.
At the time the South was not very densely populated, while the North was with large business, banking and industrial centers. So population was essential for the South to ensure that their interests were not ignored by the passage of laws in Congress. This was why such heated debates took place after the Constitution went into effect, for if new States were allowed into the Union which were not slave holding States, the Northern States could dominate Congress and subjugate and oppress the South.
You see, if we’re going to have a thorough discussion of the Civil War we have to look at the climate, the circumstances, and the differing interests of the two regions of the country; that is if we are to be honest about it. We can’t look at it from the narrow perspective of whether slavery is/was evil; for that limits your understanding of the whole story behind the Civil War.
So here we have a country that is divided yet united; meaning one segment of the country is primarily business and industry, while the other is primarily agricultural. The part that is business and industry related requires government protection against foreign competition, and subsidies to thrive, while the other part of the country needs very little from the government other than free markets for them to sell their goods. Yet both are united under a single form of government; the control of which is a constant battle between differing interests.
Although slavery was quickly becoming a Southern institution that did not mean the Northerners were not biased and prejudiced towards blacks; far from it. Many Northern cities had introduced laws that were far more prejudiced than what those held in bondage were made to live under in the South. Then, when Alexis de Tocqueville came to study America in the 1983’s he noticed, “…race prejudice seems stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it more intolerant than in those states where slavery was never known.”
So, while the idea of owning another human being as a slave may have been abhorrent among many in the North, they certainly weren’t any less racist and prejudiced. So keep that in mind when you begin leveling accusations of racism at those who proudly defend the South and the Confederate Battle Flag.
Moving right along, now there is one thing about government that I think we can all agree upon; that being that for government to operate it needs money – which means taxes of some kind. Prior to 1913 there was no income tax to fund government, (as if our taxes actually fund government today anyway), so most of the revenue generated by government came via tariffs; taxes imposed upon imported and exported goods.
Those tariffs hit the South particularly hard, and they ended up funding a lion’s share of the taxes that funded government. Some say that the South was paying 3/4 of the taxes for the entire operation of the government, yet nary a penny of those taxes were being spent on improvements in the South; it was all being spent to improve canals or build railroads in the North. When the Morrill Tariff was enacted the tariff rate jumped to nearly 45%, strangling the South.
So we have the North getting all the benefits from government, while making the South pay the cost of those benefits, and at the same time the North is refusing to return the property, (slaves), of the South, and seeking to prohibit the expansion of slavery, (which had been declared legal and constitutional by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case), into new States.
The South must have felt like saying, “Why the hell did we ever agree to become subject to this system of government?” Yet this system of government was agreed to by the voice of, not only the Northerners, but by the Southerners as well. It was the people of the States, collectively, that chose to implement this system of government, and it was by their authority that they could resume their status as independent States, free from the authority of the entity they had helped establish. This sentiment was clearly explained by the following, taken from Virginias Declaration of Ratification, “… that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression.” Virginia was not the only State to make such a statement, both New York and Rhode Island included similar wording in their declarations of ratification.
So what we had was a part of the country whose internal affairs were being taxed and interfered with by another part of the country, while they were getting no relief from the government that was supposed to provide justice for all; not just those who had the largest percentage of representation in Congress. What would you do under such circumstances, where no relief was to be found?
On 24 December 1860 the State of South Carolina decided that it had had enough of this Union and its system of government, and declared that it was seceding from the Union. South Carolina was followed by six other States in pretty rapid succession. This all came about as a new president, Abraham Lincoln, was about to be sworn into office. So this new president was coming into office while the nation was splintering apart before his very eyes.
Once Lincoln was sworn in he sought to reassure the South that he had no intention to interfere with the institution of slavery, saying in his Inaugural Address, “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.”
Not only did Lincoln say he had no inclination to interfere with slavery, he also said he supported a proposed constitutional amendment that would make slavery permanent in the United States, “I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”
This amendment he refers to is the Corwin Amendment, which had already been passed by Congress and was on its way to the States for their consideration. The Corwin Amendment states, “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”
Not only did Lincoln support the ratification of a constitutional amendment making slavery legal, he himself felt that blacks were inferior to whites. In his 4th debate with Stephen Douglas for the presidency Lincoln stated, “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way 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.”
So while slavery is/was evil, with all the evidence I have thus far presented to you, how can you say that the South was alone in being racist and prejudiced. In fact, according to de Tocqueville, they were less racist than their brethren to the North, AND the president who took the country to war against itself.
Up until this time all we’d seen is 7 Southern States leave the Union. Although some of these States had mentioned that slavery was among the reasons they chose to secede, slavery was legal under the system of government established in 1789, and upheld by the Supreme Court, so their defense of slavery was both legal and constitution; however immoral it might have been. Yet there was no war – not yet anyway.
So why didn’t Lincoln just let the South go, why did he raise an army to invade them? It certainly had nothing to do with slavery, he said so himself in an 1862 letter to Horace Greeley, “I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. 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. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”
In fact, it is because Lincoln raised an army to invade those States that had already seceded that 4 other States chose to secede, saying they would not stand by while the government used force to compel obedience to the will of the federal government. Governor Letcher’s words to Secretary of War Simon Cameron reflect the sentiments of those who chose to join the Confederacy after Lincoln’s request for volunteers to suppress the insurrection in the Cotton States, “Your object is to subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for such an object — an object, in my judgment, not within the purview of the Constitution or the act of 1795 — will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the Administration has exhibited towards the South.”
The question remains, why would Lincoln choose war over a peaceful separation? The answer to that question can be found if one looks at the following statement made in Lincoln’s letter to Horace Greeley, “The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.”
The key words, or phrases in that are ‘national authority’ and ‘the Union as it was’; meaning a Union where the North plundered the wealth of the South to better its own conditions through oppressive taxation. This was reflected in an editorial published in the New York Evening Post in 1862,” That either the revenue from duties must be collected in the ports of the rebel states, or the port must be closed to importations from abroad, is generally admitted. If neither of these things be done, our revenue laws are substantially repealed; the sources which supply our treasury will be dried up; we shall have no money to carry on the government; the nation will become bankrupt before the next crop of corn is ripe.”
I see no mention of slavery in that editorial, only the concern that the taxes that fund government would vanish should the South be allowed to secede. Lincoln had already said, both in his Inaugural Address and in his letter to Horace Greeley that he wasn’t fighting this war over slavery, but to keep the Union together.
Lincoln had this misguided view, (a view that his unfortunately shared by many people today), that government is superior to the will of those from whom government derives its authority – the people. Lincoln believed that, once established, government was superior to the people it governed, and that the majority will could dominate and oppress the minority.
That is supported by the following quote from his Inaugural Address, “Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.”
Lincoln was saying that a system was sovereign over a free people, when the reverse should have been true; the free people were sovereign to the system. He then goes on to say that whoever rejects that belief is an anarchist.
Well, if that be the case then the patriots of 1776 were anarchists as well; for they chose to sever the tied that had bound them to an established form of government rather than to submit to its arbitrary and oppressive authority. It also means that if both the Confederate States of America, and the Colonists who fought for their independence were anarchists, then so am I; for I believe the people have a right to shake off government when it becomes oppressive, that they are the masters over their government, not the other way around.
It doesn’t matter what you think, if you wish to submit to this government of your own free will, then go right ahead. However, if you believe in freedom and liberty, then I should be free to decide for myself whether the system you willingly submit to has any authority and jurisdiction over me.
If you don’t believe that, then you don’t really believe in liberty and freedom. That is why the Confederate Battle Flag does not stand for racism and prejudice; it stands for brave men who fought against a system of government that subjugated and oppressed them, it stands for the same principles that those who fought for America’s independence fought for.
And if you oppose what the Confederate Battle Flag stands for, then you obviously support tyranny and oppression…and to hell with you!