A true history of the Civil War

BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM: The Civil War Era, by James M. McPherson (1988) emphasizes a key fact about the Civil War which some historians try to ignore—that the war was started by the South and fought in defense of slavery.

This book is a history of the struggle over slavery, in its social and political as well as military aspects, from the start of the Mexican War to the end of the Civil War.

The Mexican War itself was fought partly to expand the territory open to slavery (and was opposed by many Northern abolitionists for that reason); during the next decade, Southern politicians tried to expand slave territory by purchasing Cuba and by sponsoring private military expeditions to Cuba, Nicaragua and other countries.

Battle_Cry_of_Freedom_(book)_coverThe cause of the Civil War was the growing Northern opposition to the spread of slavery and the refusal of the South to tolerate any restrictions on slavery.  Although the Southern leaders’ rationale for secession was state’s rights, this was a secondary consideration.  They did not recognize state’s rights in regard to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law and they endorsed the Dred Scott decision, which denied the right of a state to forbid slavery.

Some were more frank than others.  Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, said the U.S. Declaration of Independence was in error in saying all men are created equal.

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery … is his natural and normal condition,” Stephens said.  “This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based on this great physical, philosophical and moral truth.”

The war was not initiated by the North to abolish slavery.  Abraham Lincoln’s position was that slavery was a great evil and should not be permitted to expand, but that the federal government had no Constitutional right to interfere with it where it existed.

This was not good enough for the Southern leaders, who saw in Lincoln’s platform a future threat to slavery.  Ironically, if the Southern states had not seceded, slavery would have endured for many years to come.

Subjugation of black people was a matter of principle for the Confederates.  Robert E. Lee refused to permit exchanges of prisoners of war, which would have been to his benefit militarily, because Lincoln insisted on black prisoners being included in the exchanges.

The Confederacy announced that captured black Northern soldiers would be sold into slavery; this was suspended only after Lincoln threatened to put equal numbers of white Southern troops to hard labor.

McPherson saw the war as a more even contest than many Civil War historians do, inasmuch as the North could win only by the total defeat of the South while all the South had to do was continue fighting until the North gave up.

He gave much attention to the politics of the war, and how the North’s war aims evolved from preservation of the Union to abolition of slavery – an evolution which was not inevitable and, under a leader other than Lincoln, might not have taken place.

The book highlighted the racism in the North as well as the South.  Lincoln’s enemies said his policies would result in black men marrying white women.

It is often said of Lincoln that he was not interesting in abolishing slavery, only in preserving the Union.  It is true that Lincoln gave priority to preserving the Union.  If the Confederacy has been allowed to secede, an attack on slavery would have been meaningless.

But Lincoln had a choice of whether he would preserve the Union by appeasing the Southern slave-owners or by attacking Southern power by destroying its base, namely, slavery.  From the standpoint of expediency, there were arguments to be made either way.  Lincoln moved, and moved the North, into an attack on slavery.  McPherson gave me a renewed appreciation of Lincoln’s greatness.

The Civil War ended Southern and Democratic domination of American politics.  The White House was occupied by slave-holding Southerners for 49 of the 72 years leading up to the Civil War, while 23 of the 36 Speakers of the House of Representatives, 24 of the presidents pro tem of the Senate and 20 of the 35 Supreme Court justices were Southerners.

The Supreme Court always had a Southern majority.  During the 50 years following, none of the Speakers or Senate presidents pro tem were Southerners and only five of the 26 Supreme Court justices; a century passed before there was a President from a former Confederate state.

The South fought for a vision of society based in kinship, hierarchy and patriarchy, in which a government of limited powers protected the right of property and the supremacy of the white race, McPherson wrote; the North’s victory was a triumph of a vision of an industrial society based on competitive, egalitarian, free-labor capitalism.

The Southern bloc in Congress for years had blocked plans for a homestead law, giving Western public lands to settlers who were willing to work it, and for a transcontinental railroad; the Northern-dominated Congress enacted both during the Civil War, as well as the land grant college act, allowing the sale of public lands to finance state colleges.  The Civil War was a second American Revolution in more ways than one.

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3 Responses to “A true history of the Civil War”

  1. Gunny G Says:

    Reblogged this on BLOGGING BAD w/Gunny G ~ "THE CLINGERS".

    Like

  2. Jacob Says:

    Either you’re completely brainwashed or a third rate propagandist. Yours is the worn out party-line lie that people are finally starting to reject in favor of the truth. Oh FYI, people are more and more referring to it a The War for Southern Independence.

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  3. philebersole Says:

    Whether you call it the Civil War, the War Between the States or the War of the Rebellion, it was a war fought in defense of slavery.

    If you don’t have time to read McPherson’s history, click on the following links.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/11/they-have-encouraged-and-assisted-thousands-of-our-slaves/67190/

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/08/the-civil-war-isnt-tragic-cont/243713/

    Like

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