This week Live Science published the article 6 Civil War Myths, Busted in time for the 150th anniversary of the start of the bloody battle. The first myth busted is that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War. The article presents this alarming statistic:
Across America, 60 percent to 75 percent of high-school history teachers believe and teach that the South seceded for state’s rights, said Jim Loewen, author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” (Touchstone, 1996) and co-editor of “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The ‘Great Truth’ about the ‘Lost Cause'” (University Press of Mississippi, 2010).
State’s rights. Not slavery, but state’s rights. A couple of quotes come to mind. One is George Santayana’s famous, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The other is a favorite line from Doctor Who, uttered by the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, in The Pirate Planet, as he was mocking a boastful enemy: “Bafflegab, my dear! I’ve never heard such bafflegab in all my lives.”
First, last, always and forever both secession and the war that followed were all about slavery. To discover this “hidden” truth, one need look no further than the documents of secession themselves. I found four of them — for Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas — rather easily courtesy of Goggle. Where they should be found with equal simplicity is in the pages of every history book in every American History class in this country. Curiously, I don’t think that they are. I don’t recall seeing them in my U.S. History classes in grade school.
I read Mississippi’s up close and personal because, admittedly, it was the shortest, but also because it was the one most brimming with righteous indignation as it condemned the Northern States for their brazen mendacity. The words “slave,” “slaves,” and “slavery” occur 7 times.
[T]he institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.
It’s about slavery.
Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.
Cotton and sugar, presumably.
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.
Only enslaved Africans can pick cotton, it seems.
[A] blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.
Well, someone’s commerce and civilization.
It should be noted that poor whites, who did not own plantations or slaves, were kept from making alliances with enslaved blacks because of the indoctrination that they were better. Poor, yes, but not niggers.
Further, the document shrilly proclaimed that “utter subjugation awaits us in the Union,” and that the loss of slavery would mean “the loss of property worth four billions of money.” That’s a lot for 3/5 of a person.
The other declarations all contain similar language. All liberally quote from the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Remember your Schoolhouse Rock? Promote the general welfare. Insure domestic tranquility and the blessings of peace and liberty. All of that is tied to the Southern states ability to “[maintain] and [protect] the institution known as negro slavery,” so says the Texas declaration of secession.
The words “slave,” “slavery,” and “slaves” occur collectively in all four declarations of secession a total of 82 times. They protect and defend slavery as integral to the South’s economy and whole fabric of life. They use every piece of twisted logic and ptolemaic reasoning imaginable to justify the subjugation of human beings for the sake of economic gain. Texas’s declaration, for instance, invokes God by stating that treating people of different races and colors equally, as Northerners would have them do, is in violation of “Divine Law” — that Jesus taught about the brotherhood of man is a mere inconvenience easily dismissed by reasoning that Africans are not human, but only subhuman. So it is a damnable lie to say that secession and the Civil War were not about slavery. Really, they were about nothing but.
It is understandable why modern day revisionists would not want to associate themselves with slavery. It was an evil. A greater evil, however, is that the revisionists — including, until recently, politicians like Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour who apparently has now seen the light — are allowed to spew their bass-ackwards BS while the truth of the Civil War, its causes and reasons, are allowed to lie fallow in the dusty pages of history, untouched and undisturbed.
I’ve studied German for many years and have visited Germany three times. One thing which impressed me during my trips, coming from a country with a troubled past and being of a race directly affected by that troubled past, is that Germany, to its credit, has strived hard not to mask its troubled past. Quite the contrary, it is very easy in Berlin and Munich, for example, to find museum exhibits, walking tours, and solemn monuments connected to the Nazi era and the Holocaust. The savage cruelty of the 12 years from 1933 to 1945 are spelled out in unvarnished language and pictures. I visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin, a singular experience, though I have yet to muster the emotional stamina needed to visit one of the concentration camps. It may happen one day. But at least it is possible to visit such places and see them for what there were. All the while as I visited these places, I kept thinking that back home, in the country of my birth and my ancestor’s birth, one would be hard pressed to find similar exhibits, walking tours, and monuments dedicated to one of our country’s darkest chapters. There is a group trying to create a Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Despite many years trying, a museum has yet to be built and it’s possible it never will be. (For a more recent story on the Slavery Museum’s saga, click here.) 146 years after the war’s end, is that really the best we can do?
Holocaust denial is against the law in Germany and most European countries. Should we make it a crime to deny that slavery caused the Civil War? No, that would be unrealistic and not in keeping with our First Amendment. Education must be our weapon of choice. Every middle and high school American History class in this country should make reading the declarations of secession and all the bafflegab used by the Confederacy to justify the unjustifiable a requirement. These documents are a testament to our greatest shame and for that reason they are our most sacred. It is our duty not to let this history slip away or be revised into non-existence.
© 2011, gar. All rights reserved.