I grew up in the Chicago area. I watched the Cubs, the Bears, and the Blackhawks. Maybe the Bulls a little but I wasn’t very good at basketball, so I didn’t really enjoy watching it. I loved to read about and study history and because of that love, read about the Civil War. Because of that study, I knew that the North was good because they wanted to free the slaves while the South was bad because they fought to maintain slavery. I’ll be honest, I never heard anything about the South’s perspective on the civil war, but I never thought there could be another side to the question.
Then, I came to Texas for college. I don’t remember how long it took for me to see the bumper sticker, but I’ve got to admit that I laughed when I saw it. “The South’s gonna do it again,” was the caption on a photo of a young man in a rebel uniform carrying the Confederate Flag. All I could think of when I saw that was, “What? The South’s gonna rebel against the United States again, try to secede, and get slapped down again?” Yes, I have to admit that my first encounter with Southern Pride was not sympathetic and reinforced the idea that those people who displayed the flag that I now know as the Confederate Battle Flag were racist hicks. Any time I saw people exhibiting the Confederate Battle Flag after that, I laughed with a sense of superiority, although I didn’t see it much when I was in school because I was focused on my studies.
In the last fifteen or twenty years, I began hearing the “Southern” side of the argument. According to this argument, it’s not that the South was fighting for slavery so much as fighting against interference from the Federal government. They were just fighting to maintain their southern way of life in the face of northern aggression. I even had a friend call it the war of northern aggression – without any sense of irony. (Note: he would never use that term seriously now.) The fight, also known as “The Lost Cause,” was meant to show the power of states’ rights as seen in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. To be honest, as a conservative who see the Federal Government encroaching on freedoms more and more as the years pass by, there was an attractive quality to the argument if you overlooked that peculiar institution – slavery. Some of the people I came into contact with espoused the ideas of the Lost Cause and flew the Confederate Battle Flag. I never could do anything but look on the Battle Flag with disdain, but I began to wonder if perhaps my upbringing in the north might have colored my perception of the war that took place between the Northern States and the Southern States. As social media began to expand, the idea of the Lost Cause, while not mentioned in those terms, grew in mentions, if not in actual popularity. I began to wonder if I had misunderstood the war from the time I started hearing about it.
At the same time, controversy arose over the statues of Confederate Leaders that were displayed around the south and in some cases violent protests broke out as some sought to destroy the statues, while others sought to preserve them as pictures of the Southern way of life. A quick study showed that many of the monuments were erected around the time of World War 1 and immediately after as the last soldiers of the confederacy were dying off and as African Americans began gaining some kinds of power. While I can’t document the reasons for my opinion here, I am of the belief that these monuments were erected to remind African Americans who was in charge, through intimidation. Meanwhile, I was told again and again that the average foot soldier in the South probably never held slaves and only saw himself as fighting for their land and their way of life and not for the right to enslave people in the vilest of conditions.
Somewhere in the midst of all this discussion, I decided to do a little checking up. The primary source documents on this issue were that actual articles of secession by each of the states. I’ll place a link to these documents at the end of this post. As I read them myself I came to the conclusion that when reasons were given for secession the Southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy to maintain that peculiar institution of slavery. When reasons were not given, there was much debate on that issue which was not included in the specific artilce of secession. While they paid lip service to their concerns for states rights, the only right mentioned in these articles was the ability to maintain the institution of slavery. The only “southern way of life” to be maintained was the evil of slavery. At the risk of repeating myself, while the Southern States may have had fears of federal overreach, the area where that was expressed was in the area of slavery.
It all comes back to the issue of slavery. The concept of southern pride goes back to a time before the Civil War when life was easy because the slaves did most of the work. Need I add anything more about the monuments, states rights, or the Confederate Battle Flag? While removing all vestiges of the Confederacy and slavery of that time from the mainstream of American life won’t end racism, it will make it harder to honor those who fought to defend the “right” to keep slaves. While I understand the concerns of those who want to tear those statues down now, doing so that way won’t end the problem. Instead, we should have a rational and national discussion on the types of monuments we would have in our country. For those who would cry that we’re erasing history, let me ask if you can tell me who Iraq’s leader was during the US wars against that nation? They tore his statues down and destroyed his pictures. Yet we all know who Saddam Hussein was. Destroying his statues did not erase him from history. Germany has no monuments to Hitler or his minions. They do have memorial sites to commemorate the horrors that he inflicted on his own people. We can turn those parks in the south dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Lost Cause into memorials the remind us of the horrors of slavery. We should never honor traitors who took up arms against the United States to defend the despicable cause of slavery. We should teach about them, of course, but as a warning of the excuses men will make to justify their evil acts.
Following and acting on the truth is a conservative ideal. There is nothing conservative about supporting slavery, the people who practiced it, or the institutions that encourage it. Conservatives should be about letting all have equal opportunity to succeed or fail in life. Conservatives should be willing to help people in need whether or not they’re compelled to. Conservatives should see the evil nature of the Southern Heritage and work to provide liberty and justice for all.
The order of secession resolutions and dates are:
1. South Carolina (December 20, 1860)
2. Mississippi (January 9, 1861)
3. Florida (January 10)
4. Alabama (January 11)
5. Georgia (January 19)
6. Louisiana (January 26)
7. Texas (February 1; referendum February 23)
Bombardment of Fort Sumter (April 12) and President Lincoln’s call up (April 15)
8. Virginia (April 17; referendum May 23, 1861)
9. Arkansas (May 6)
10. Tennessee (May 7; referendum June 8)
11. North Carolina (May 20)