A True Estimate of Abraham Lincoln
and Vindication of the South
by Mildred Lewis Rutherford
Dr. A.W. Littlefield, of Neeham, Massachusetts, said prophetically:
The South though defeated, really saved to America, and as we now see it, to the world all that was best in American nationality.
The Constitution of the Confederacy furnishes ample proof that Lee’s shrine at Lexington, not Lincoln’s tomb will become the shrine of American patriotism, when once history is told correctly.
Had the cause of the South in 1865 prevailed, history would have been truthfully written by unprejudiced historians. The Southern statesmen who had been true to the Constitution could better have steered the Ship of State than such men as Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, Fessenden, Turnbill, Andrew Johnson, and others. It has taken the South many years to get off that "rock of offense," the Reconstruction Period. While the South was combating the destructive forces at work during this time — homes were being destroyed, domestic relations were upset, property was being confiscated, politics was being corrupted, liberty of speech, and liberty of the press were being suppressed — the North was writing the history unmolested. We of the South have allowed this history written from the Northern viewpoint, with absolute ignorance of the South, to be taught in our schools all these years with an indifference that is truly appalling.
We have allowed our leaders and our soldiers to be spoken of as "rebels." Secession is not rebellion.
We have allowed them to be called "traitors." They could never convict one Southern man for the stand he took in 1861.
We have allowed our cause to be spoken of as a "Lost Cause." The Cause for which the Confederate soldier fought was not a "Lost Cause." The late war was fought to maintain the very same principle for which the Americans of 1776 fought — the non-interference with just rights. The trouble in 1865 was that the South failed to maintain this principle by force of arms. Being a Republic of sovereign states and not a nation, she had the right to resent any interference with rights which had been guaranteed to her by the Constitution. The South never has abandoned the principle for which she fought nor ever will. By overwhelming arms, 2,850,000 forced 600,000 to surrender, and in surrendering she was forced to submit to the terms of parole.
We have allowed the war to be called a "Civil War," because the North called it so when the history was first written, and by allowing this we have acknowledged that we were a nation, not sovereign states, and therefore the South had no right to secede. No wonder the doctrine of States’ Rights has been so misunderstood!
It is with no thought of stirring up sectional strife, but rather with the desire of allaying sectional bitterness that I am anxious to have the truth known. If the North does not know the South’s side of history — and how can she know it if we do not tell it to her? — the historians of the future will continue to misrepresent the South and the South will continue to resent the misrepresentations.
We of the South are not advocating the adoption of any one textbook, but we are advocating that those textbooks which are unjust to the South shall be ruled out of our schools, out of our homes, out of our public and private libraries, and that the new encyclopedias and books of references now being sold be carefully examined before being placed in homes or libraries.
The great underlying thought which animated the soldiers of the Confederacy was their profound regard for the principle of state self-government. The South was not fighting to hold her slaves, but for the freedom of controlling her own domestic affairs. Only a very small minority of the men who fought in the Southern army were slaveholders. There were over a thousand more slaveholders in the Northern army than in the Southern. Only a small percent of the Confederate soldiers ever owned slaves.(1) Furthermore, General Lee, who had freed his slaves before the war, commanded the Southern forces, while General Grant, who owned slaves until the Thirteenth Amendment, commanded the Northern forces.
George Lunt wrote:
In presenting the causes which led to the war, it will be seen that slavery, though an occasion, was not in reality the cause of the war.
The doctrine of States Rights is not well understood. The states do not derive their rights from the Constitution, but the Constitution derives its rights from the states.
The states do not derive their rights from the Federal government, but each state derives its power from the people of the states. At last the people hold the power, and it is not the people of all the states collectively, but the people of each one of the sovereign states, separately, who act in convention representing the will of the people, so the people must not surrender this power to direct their local affairs to the government.(2)
In his book, History of the United States, George Bancroft said, "The Federal government is only a common agent of the transaction of the business delegated to it by the action of the states."
Already instances have come to notice where textbooks making false statements about the North have been rejected in Southern schools. Will not the North be as magnanimous? The South should be as quick to resent an injustice to the North in history as she now resents an injustice to the South in history.
Dr. J.L.M. Curry, in his Southern States of the American Nation, says:
History, poetry, romance, art, and public opinion have been most unjust to the South. If the true record be given, the South is rich in patriotism, in intellectual force, in civic and military achievements, in heroism, in honorable and sagacious statesmanship — but if history as now written is accepted it will consign the South to infamy.
The South should not be afraid to speak the truth and call injustice by its proper name. In failing to do this we have been unjust to the South. For fear of offending some personal friends of the North, we have assumed an apologetic tone too long, and for fear of failing to secure an office or some honor we have allowed politics to make us unjust, and we have not dared to criticize Abraham Lincoln, and many are now falling down to worship him.
There is no need for any animus to be shown, for no facts must be stated which cannot be substantiated by reliable authority. But we must not be afraid to speak boldly. By inheritance we of the South are not cowards.
All I ask is that the reader consider what is stated here. Disprove it, if you can, for I will be glad to know wherein I am wrong. If you cannot disprove it, then accept it gracefully. Acknowledge your mistakes and be just. Help to right the wrongs against the South and cease criticizing those who are trying to do it.
1. John R. Deering, page 381.
2. George Lunt, Origins of the Late War, page 10.