Tyler Buchanan’s article ‘Confederacy Celebration promotes ignorance toward American History’
 
From:  johan.f.temmerman@telenet.be
To:  thenews@bgnews.com
 
Sirs,
 
Mr. Buchanan chose his title well, although the ignorance of American history he so deplores includes, unfortunately, his own. The ghosts of history are apparently very difficult to lay to rest in today’s United
States, ignorance and insensitivity towards Southern history keeping them very much alive.
 
The Civil War – the term itself is a misnomer, for a ‘civil war’ is a struggle between factions for control of a single government, whereas the Confederacy fought for its independence from the North and never sought to dominate it – was undeniably NOT primarily about slavery. It was about taxes, and the centralizing power that goes with it.
 
Any serious student of American history should know that the North-South conflict in America was much older than the 1850s. It is rooted in the conflict between the Jeffersonian – minimal government, no public debt,
individual liberty – and Hamiltonian – nationalist, tax-hungry, imperialist – views of what good government should constitute. Jefferson’s views prevailed for the first few decades of the 19th century, gradually weakening before finally being snuffed out by the Lincoln Administration (the final nail in the coffin would be FDR’s New
Deal, 8 decades later).
 
The crisis that came to a head in 1860 with the election of a Radical Republican, Mr. Lincoln, to the Presidency, was therefore long in the making. It was double in nature: political and financial. There was the political question of westward expansion, namely whether new territories and future States west of the existing States should be slave-holding or free. This heated dispute had little or nothing to do with the fate of the slaves themselves, but with representation of those new States in Congress: if they were to be slave-holding, slaves would count demographically for 3/5ths, if they were not, the slave population would be disregarded demographically. Needless to say, the outcome of this debate would profoundly impact the balance of power in Congress. The 1820 Missouri Compromise made for an uneasy truce on this point, which however continued to simmer in the background. Much hotter, and of course inextricably linked with the power question, was the tax debate between North and South. The Hamiltonians in government used taxes to increase the size, reach and influence of government, thereby – and not accidentally – benefiting wealthy manufacturers in the North (they would become vastly wealthier during the War, and even more so during its aftermath, the so-called ‘Reconstruction’ period). Import taxes and duties protected Northern manufacturers from competition by European imports, seriously worsening the terms of trade for the mostly agricultural South. When secession came, the threat posed by the Confederacy’s proposed duty-free ports and harbors was a mortal one to the US Treasury, meaning the North’s, as taxes were spent on ‘internal improvements’ (corporate welfare for cronies) in the North.
 
These were the real causes of the war that broke out in 1860 between the two parts of the slave-holding Republic, as was well understood at the time in Europe, as well as both North and South of the Mason-Dixon line. The South had sought to avoid war, but the North provoked it into firing the first shot at Fort Sumter. The viciousness of the bloody war caused consternation in Europe and, in combination with a number of spectacular Northern defeats, led to a desperate political ploy by the Lincoln Administration, to at once gain the upper moral ground and try to provoke an ethnic rebellion behind enemy lines, by launching the cynical
Emancipation Declaration, painting the conflict not as a greedy power grab, which it was, but as a moral mission to rescue the Black man from the bondage in which he was to continue to be held ‘in all territories
not in rebellion against the United States’. The North, in other words, could keep its slaves. They only needed to liberated in the Confederacy.
 
That said, the end of slavery was the one positive outcome of the Civil War. But it was never its purpose or goal.
 
Lack of space prevents my going deeper into what should be common knowledge in the United States. I am not in the least angry with Mr. Buchanan for his ignorance, only saddened that a bright student at an institute of learning should be able to reproduce boilerplate, politically correct history. Those are the times we live in: this passes for individual thought these days. I myself am no historian, not even an American. I therefore claim objectivity. I am merely an investment manager in a small, obscure European country who is well read on the
subject of history and does not claim superior intelligence, merely superior aversion to intellectual laziness.
 
I notice from his photograph that Mr. Buchanan is a person of pallor, and of the youthful persuasion.  This goes far towards explaining the content of his article, which was at least in good English and managed
to maintain a polite tone, a rarity. As a future politician he may go far, as a future scientist I think he should stick to global warming and similar fantasies. To obtain a good sense in history, the road he will need to travel will be long. I know, having traveled it myself.
 
Best regards,
 
Johan Temmerman
Oudenaarde, Belgium