The Truth of Southern History
Is Going to Be Told
by Gene Kizer, Jr.
(This article comes from the last section of my book, Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, The Irrefutable Argument., available on this website. That section is entitled "Author's Final Assessment".)
Any historian who does not think the impending annihilation of the Northern economy in the spring of 1861 is the true cause of the War Between the States, is like a detective who desperately needs to solve a murder but just doesn't think motive is important.
The annihilation of the Northern economy and the rise of the South are ultimately what drove the actions of most participants, North and South, in the spring of 1861 when the war started. Ending slavery was nowhere on the Northern radar. Northerners were seeing their world crumble before their very eyes with bankruptcy and anarchy at the end of the tunnel.
Southerners were seeing 1776 and the re-founding of the American republic but with constitutionally protected free trade, low tariffs, and even more emphasis on States' Rights. In the South, power belonged to the people in their respective states -- not to a centralized government representing, as the Founding Fathers warned over and over, the tyranny of the majority.
I am interested in historical truth, and in this age of political correctness, we do not have it. Northerners, as this book proves beyond the shadow of a doubt, did not go to war to end slavery, and Southerners did not go to war to preserve it. With all that the South had to gain by being a free, independent nation on this earth, only a dull person would think that protecting slavery was all the South wanted.1
The Confederate States of America was about powerful sovereign states in which free people governed themselves. It was united by a weak federal government that was subservient to the states and the people in those states, and was not their master.
That is the main issue of the war. The North believed in a powerful central government, and the South did not.
Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve (1831–1924) of Charleston, South Carolina was a Confederate soldier during the War Between the States. He is, today, "still regarded as the greatest American classical scholar of all times."2 His 1915 book, The Creed of the Old South, is so beautifully written, so heartfelt and sincere, that you know immediately -- whether you are from the North or the South -- that it is the truth and this is what happened. It is actually a reprint of an essay that was published in 1892, only 27 years after the war. He writes:
A friend of mine, describing the crowd that besieged the Gare de Lyon in Paris, when the circle of fire was drawing round the city, and foreigners were hastening to escape, told me that the press was so great that he could touch in every direction those who had been crushed to death as they stood, and had not had room to fall. Not wholly unlike this was the pressure brought to bear on the Confederacy. It was only necessary to put out your hand and you touched a corpse; and that not an alien corpse, but the corpse of a brother or a friend.3
So much of Southern history today is not truth and is not what really happened. Esteemed historian Eugene D. Genovese had it right:
Rarely these days, even on southern campuses, is it possible to acknowledge the achievements of the white people of the South. The history of the Old South is now often taught at leading universities, when it is taught at all, as a prolonged guilt-trip, not to say a prologue to the history of Nazi Germany. . . . To speak positively about any part of this southern tradition is to invite charges of being a racist and an apologist for slavery and segregation. We are witnessing a cultural and political atrocity -- an increasingly successful campaign by the media and an academic elite to strip young white southerners, and arguably black southerners as well, of their heritage, and, therefore, their identity. They are being taught to forget their forebears or to remember them with shame.4 (Bold emphasis added.)
Nobody who wants a career in history in this day and age can say anything good about the South. They can't risk being called a racist. We no longer learn from much of the historical discussion because so much is banned or censored, leaving a false record. The "progressives" who bring up the McCarthy era with hate-America glee are a thousand times worse with their political correctness. They represent an Orwellian anti-intellectual, anti-knowledge movement and it's cowardly because they want to control the debate through intimidation, not by producing the best scholarship and ideas.
Much of this liberal political correctness goes back to today's politics. The PC crowd believes in a giant all-powerful federal government, and that was unquestionably the main issue of the War Between the States. The North wanted a powerful federal government that it would control with its majority for its own wealth and aggrandizement.
The South wanted powerful sovereign states -- States' Rights -- and a weak federal government, which is what the Founding Fathers intended.
It is no coincidence that the blue states of the big government Democrat Party of today are mostly the old Union states of the North and West, while most of the red states, who take a Reaganesque view of the Federal Government -- "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem"5 -- are in the South.
So, this politically correct anti-South view of history benefits the liberal Democrat Party that worships federal power and is enthusiastically embraced by liberals who make up, effectively, 100% of academia (oh, I know the actual number is only around 90% in the Humanities where History resides but it might as well be 100% because that 10% of non-liberals better not dare go against liberal orthodoxy if they want to keep their jobs). It's partly the dirty politics of today and not a truthful examination of history.
Who controls the past controls the future:
who controls the present controls the past.6
Big Brother is absolutely correct. That's why the moral-superiority argument, that the good North went to war to end slavery, must be maintained at all costs, though they actually went to war to establish the supremacy of the Federal Government (they were called "Federals" during the war), which they would control with their majority. Truth, and the deaths of 750,000 people and wounding of over a million, are a cheap price to pay. The ends justify the means, or so the PC argument goes, and the South must be vilified that much more.
The charge of racism will not only intimidate and keep many from doing meaningful research on the South, but it also casts aspersions on much great writing of the past so that nothing is left except what the PC crowd wants you to believe -- and that is always something favorable to the growth of liberal politics and federal power.
As Winston Smith laments in 1984:
Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.7
That's why David H. Donald said there has been no Southern view among professional historians for over a half-century. There is a powerful Southern view but it has been subverted in an attempt to erase and rewrite history as Big Brother with his liberal bosom buddies in academia and the news media demand.
Charleston's William Gilmore Simms, according to Edgar Allan Poe, was the greatest American writer of the 19th century yet he is not studied in depth, and in most places, not at all, because he was a slaveowner. Simms wrote 82 book-length works including history and poetry. He was an expert on the American Revolution and wrote a fantastic series of big, thick Revolutionary War novels, mostly set in and around Charleston, and they cause the Revolution to jump off the pages. You are suddenly there in Charleston in 1776.
What is lost in Charleston alone by not studying William Gilmore Simms in depth, is a crime. There is a bust of Simms at the Battery, high up on a pedestal, but that's where the study of Simms ends.
The primary reason for the viciousness against the South is to cover up the enormity of the North's crime of destroying the republic of the Founding Fathers and killing 750,000 men and wounding over a million. Historians admit that the Northern victory destroyed the republic of sovereign states of the Founders and centralized power in the Federal Government.
That was not what the Founding Fathers had in mind in all their wisdom. A nation of sovereign states with a weak national government is where they saw true freedom and self-determination. That's what States' Rights are about and that is why the South fought. Centralization would give us the tyranny of the majority as the Founding Fathers warned.
So, rather than giving the South any credit, Big Brother's PC mob must rewrite history. The Southern cause must be changed from independence to vile slavery, and the North's guilt in bringing most of the slaves here and building the infrastructure of the Old North on profits from the slave trade should be forgotten.
It is extremely enlightening to read the excellent book, Complicity, How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery. This is an important book, not only because it is well-researched and fearless, but because it is written by Northerners, and fairly recently. It was written by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank of The Hartford Courant and published in 2005.
This book had come about when The Hartford Courant published a story with headline "Aetna 'Regrets' Insuring Slaves."
This shocked them, to think that a Northern company and Northerners could have had anything to do with slavery. Slavery was the sin of the South, wasn't it?
To their credit, they began investigating and found that The Hartford Courant itself had run ads supporting the sale and capture of slaves. They found out that "Connecticut's role in slavery was not only huge, it was a key to the success of the entire institution," then the floodgates opened and as a result, this is what they wrote in the Preface:
What was true of Connecticut turned out to be overwhelmingly true of the entire North. Most of what you'll read here was gleaned from older, often out-of-print texts, and from period newspapers, largely in Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.
We are Journalists, not scholars, and want to share what surprised, and even shocked, the three of us. We have all grown up, attended schools, and worked in Northern states, from Maine to Maryland. We thought we knew our home. We thought we knew our country.
We were wrong.8
Let me suggest some other topics that would enlighten the country historically. How about a book on the laws in most of the Northern and Western States that forbid black people from living there. Add Northern racism in general.
How about a book on the racist nature of Northern anti-slavery, which was mostly economic and political, featuring Northern greed and racism at its worst. Even Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his diary: "The abolitionist wishes to abolish slavery, but because he wishes to abolish the black man."9
How about a book on the racist nature of Lincoln's "extension of slavery into the West" argument, which was racist to the core. Neither slaves nor free blacks were allowed because the West was to be reserved for white people from all over the world, and Northern institutions. That's why Lincoln and the Republicans did not want slavery in the West, because they did not want blacks in the West.
How about more books on Lincoln's strong belief that black people should be sent back to Africa or into a place suitable for them. If Lincoln had had his way, there would be no blacks in America. African-American scholar, Lerone Bennett, Jr.'s Forced Into Glory, Abraham Lincoln's White Dream, is a good start.
How about more books on Republican Party hatred and greed, which President James Buchanan said was the main cause of the war.
How about more books examining the North's economic dependence on the South, on manufacturing for the South and shipping Southern cotton. Add to that the Northern abuse of the economic system with tariffs, monopolies, bounties, and subsidies from the federal treasury that benefited the North at the expense of the South. Examine the unfair taxation issue in detail. Taxes were supposed to be uniform but Southerners ended up paying most of them while most of the tax money was spent in the North.
How long do you think Northerners would put up with paying 3/4ths of the country's taxes while 3/4ths of the tax money was spent in the South?
The economic system was hugely unfair to the South, but I understand how Northern businessmen would be aggressive within the system in pursuit of profits. I don't fault them for that. I fault historians today for perpetuating the fraud that Northerners were more concerned about ending slavery than profits or free land in the West.
There is no other way to look at the Morrill Tariff than pure Northern greed. It passed the Northern Congress in a knee-jerk fashion because Northerners, without even thinking, figured it would fall on the South. Southerners would have to pay it. It would be like more free Southern money for the North.
But the South was out of the Union and no longer had to pay astronomical Northern tariffs. This one fell on the North alone and it made entry of goods into the North 37 to 50% higher than entry into the South. It threatened to instantly rerout U.S. trade away from the high-tariff North and into the low-tariff South where protective tariffs were unconstitutional. This would destroy the Northern shipping industry almost overnight. Northern ship captains began moving South where they were guaranteed cargoes because of the South's free trade philosophy and low tariff. This added greatly to panic in the North and the North's call for war.
When the Morrill Tariff and destruction of the North's shipping industry is added to the loss of its manufacturing market because of secession, it meant the Northern economy would not recover. The Republican Party of the North pledged against the South was in serious political trouble. War was, to Lincoln, his only way out. It would solve all his enormous problems overnight.
In many ways, historical interpretations are like politics. People in different places see things differently. Evidence and logic should rule but most of the time they don't. You pull for your home team no matter what.
That's fine, but good scholarship -- truth -- demands a vigorous discussion and analysis with all sides presented accurately. If we don't have that, then we don't have history. We have propaganda and filthy politics. That's why they call this modern fraud, "political" correctness, and it is the opposite of truth.
When you get down to it, the only thing that matters is the right of secession. If the South had the right to secede from the Union, then Southerners are the heroes of American history and Northerners the villains who started a bloody fratricidal war for commercial gain.
That is how it was largely viewed in Europe during and after the war, as Charles Dickens proves. British Lord Acton (John Dalberg Acton) wrote this to Gen. Robert E. Lee a year-and-a-half after Appomattox:
. . . I saw in State Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. . . . Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.10
Of course the South had the right to secede from the Union. Anybody who believes in the Declaration of Independence has to believe in the right of secession. The Declaration of Independence is the greatest Ordinance of Secession ever written.
The fact that the Constitution did not prohibit secession, and three states -- Virginia, New York and Rhode Island -- reserved the right of secession before acceding to the U.S. Constitution, proves the right of secession. Virginia, New York and Rhode Island's reserved right of secession was acknowledged and approved by the other states, which means that they had it too because all the states are equal. Horace Greeley certainly believed in the right of secession.
The secession debate in the South in the months before they left the Union, the calling of conventions, the votes, the formation of a new nation on this earth, was, as I said, the greatest expression of democracy and self-government in the history of the world. The Colonists of 1776 were a great expression too but the South in 1860-61 was so much larger and covered a continent-size landmass and represented the exact same argument as 1776, so I would give the South one up.
Or perhaps a tie.
But a tie with the Founding Fathers puts the South in pretty damn good company.
This book proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the North did not go to war to end slavery or free the slaves.
The impending annihilation of the Northern economy and the rise of the South are what drove the actions of most participants, North and South, in the spring of 1861 when the war started.
Abraham Lincoln started the war the North demanded, as the Providence Daily Post asserted, "because Abraham Lincoln loves a party better than he loves his country," and 750,000 men had to die, and over a million be maimed.
Southerners are patriotic Americans and our ancestors accepted the verdict of the battlefield, though it was not a just verdict. We fought well and were proud of ourselves for standing with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and all the others who believed in States' Rights.
There was an ad that ran often in the back of the original Confederate Veteran magazine of 1893 to 1932 and it said, "One Country, . . . One Flag."
We, in the South, are enormously proud of that country and flag, but the truth of our glorious Southern history is going to be told.
1 Besides, the U.S. Constitution strongly protected slavery. Slavery was not in danger in the Union, and 94% of Southerners didn't own slaves anyway. Also, the Confederate Constitution allowed free states to join. Slavery was not required. Southerners wanted free states to join for economic reasons and anticipated that many would. This worried Lincoln to death.
2 Clyde N. Wilson, Abstract, The Creed of the Old South by Basil L. Gildersleeve, Society of Independent Southern Historians, http://southernhistorians.org/the-societys-southern-life-recommended-reading/11-southern-literature/11-09-southern-literature-southern-view-of-southern-culture/11-09-04/, accessed 10/11/2014.
3 Basil L. Gildersleeve, The Creed of the Old South (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1915; reprint: BiblioLife, Penrose Library, University of Denver (no date given), 26-27.
4 Eugene D. Genovese, The Southern Tradition, The Achievements and Limitations of an American Conservatism (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1994), Preface, xi-xii. Dr. Genovese passed away September 26, 2012.
5 President Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural, January 20, 1981.
6 George Orwell, 1984 (New York: New American Library, 1950), 32. This was one of the slogans of Big Brother's English Socialist Party of Oceania, INGSOC.
7 Ibid, 128.
8 Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, Jenifer Frank of The Hartford Courant, Complicity, How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery (NY: Ballantine Books, 2005), Preface, xvii - xix.
9 Ralph Waldo Emerson, diary entry, in Clyde N. Wilson, "Our History and Their Myth: Comparing the Confederacy and the Union," Confederate Veteran, Vol. 72, No. 2, March/April, 2014, 19.
10 John Dalberg-Acton to Gen. Robert E. Lee, November 4, 1866, The Acton-Lee Correspondence, http://archive.lewrockwell.com/orig3/acton-lee.html, accessed November 10, 2014.