Response to Charles Irons column
Please see below my response to Charles Irons letter of October 5. For any of you that would like to respond to him directly, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Irons’ guest column of October 5 touting the sins of the Confederacy is very simplistic and misleading. A person that holds himself out to be an educated expert and in charge of educating our young people should realize the magnitude of this responsibility.
To reduce the gallant efforts of the Confederate soldier to a simple act of racism is shameful. Most Southerners were very patriotic and those of the Border States saw more value to be had by staying in the union than by leaving it. The states of Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee only left after Lincoln’s unconstitutional call for troops. Mr. Irons’ position was that the only state’s right worth fighting for was the right to hold slaves. In truth the only states right worth fighting for was the right of self determination. Sovereign states that had freely joined the constitutional union should have had the right to freely leave it. The federal government does not own the states and the citizens of each state are the true holders of political power. Under the Tenth Amendment it is stated that all powers not expressly granted to the federal government or denied to the states shall remain with the states. The right of a state to secede was taught at West Point. The sovereignty of the states was a limit on federal power. Even Mr. Lincoln before he was elected president had stated that any people anywhere had the right to throw off their government and adopt one that suited them better. How power does corrupt.
Hiding sin behind virtue is bad history (I think this is also bad grammar). Hiding sin behind false virtue is worse history. Mr. Irons, the express cause of the so-called civil war (it was not a civil war because the South was not trying to overthrow the federal government, it only wanted to leave it) was not slavery. The U. S. Congress adopted a resolution early in the war that expressly stated that the war was to preserve the union, period. Lincoln made the same statement early on. Lincoln’s decision to free the slaves via the Emancipation Proclamation was a purely political one. If you examine his debates with Stephen Douglas his own words condemn him as a white supremacist. The Emancipation Proclamation stated in 1863 (while war still raged) that slaves under Confederate control were free, but it did not free one slave under federal control. This proclamation was made to keep France or England (who had already freed their slaves) from recognizing or supporting the Confederacy. It was purely a political act.
There are other things that lead me to believe that the north held no special favor for blacks. In most northern states it was illegal for free blacks to immigrate, vote, or hold property. North Carolina and Virginia were the residence of more free blacks than any other states. This seems problematic for your thesis.
Most people do not know that Lincoln baited the South Carolinians into firing on Fort Sumter which gave him his excuse to invade the South. The Confederate government sent emissaries to Washington to discuss the assumption of their portion of the federal debt and compensation for former federal property. Lincoln refused to meet with them. At the end of thirty days, upon hearing of Lincoln’s plan to “resupply” Fort Sumter, they left. Lincoln knew the fiery South Carolinians would never allow this action to stand. His plan worked. The South Carolinians fired the first shot, eliciting the required amount of yankee outrage and indignation, and the war was on. This despite the fact that the only casualty resulted from one of Anderson’s own troops blowing himself up when his gun exploded while firing a final salutary volley to the federal flag before its removal.
Lincoln had stated in his inaugural address that no aggression would be taken by the north except to carry out the laws of the United States (tariff collection) or to recover federal property (the forts).
The real cause of the war was the tariff issue. In March of 1861 the U.S. Congress was able to pass the Morrill Tariff Act which raised the import tariff rate to an average of forty-one percent. With no Southern representation present, there was no opposition to this. In contrast the Confederate Congress passed a tariff rate of ten percent. This virtually insured that all commerce formerly bound for northern ports would flow to the South. Since this was the only form of taxation available to the federal government at that time, it more than got their attention. This realization was not lost on Lincoln. He was faced with an impossibly porous two thousand mile long border to protect against smuggling. Asked why he just did not just let the South go he replied “Let the South go? Let the South go! What then shall become of our revenue?” The South paid over eighty-five percent of federal revenue via the import tariff. And it was not just the federal government that would suffer. Northern manufacturers would not be able to compete for sales to the south of cheaper European goods. Northern merchants would have to pay an import duty on Southern goods which had been formerly duty free. And all that business lost to the North. The cries for Lincoln to take action began then.
It is often said that the end justifies the means. The U. S. Navy bombarded the civilian inhabitants of Charleston for eighteen months, leaving a ruined shell of a city, as punishment for being the place where the war started. The cities of Richmond, Atlanta, and Columbia were burned. Countless homes, farms, and crops were burned and livestock slaughtered, war crimes committed not against soldiers, but civilians, women children and old people, against white and black alike. How virtuous was the grand union army that committed these acts of arson, theft, rape, and murder while the monsters Sheridan and Sherman gave their blessing. Lincoln, his cabinet, and Grant not only turned a blind eye to these atrocities, but gave their consent. These sins are never told, and if they are they are denied the same as those that would deny the Nazi Holocaust. We know these things happened, and they are documented, so we tell the truth about why we fought.
You state that the Confederate government was formed for the express purpose of preserving slavery. I submit to you that the Confederate government was formed for the same purpose that the U. S. government was formed for, that being the conduct of commerce and the protection from foreign enemies. In fact the only difference between the U.S. Constitution and the Confederate Constitution is that the right of secession is directly spelled out in the latter.
We the Sons of Confederate Veterans are duty bound to protect the Confederate soldier’s good name and to tell the reasons that he fought. We seek to tell his story, and to emulate his courage and character while protecting his country against a superior invading enemy that would have victory at any cost. The men I know in the SCV are all good Christian men of exemplary character. To question our citizenship is a direct insult. Any other group would be hard pressed to produce better citizens.
Mr. Irons, it is the job of a historian to seek and teach the truth about history. You can not judge it, for that is not your job. History is not good or bad, it simply is. To try to manipulate it is “bad history”. Yes the South has warts, but the North has more. At least we admit ours. There is more than enough sin to go around, and the South has no monopoly on it. My mother taught me to be respectful to a host while being a guest in his house. As you are obviously not a Southerner, you have not earned the right to criticize us. The north has had 140 years to tell its lies. Sir, I would suggest you should keep silent on subjects you are obviously not knowledgeable on.
Mitchell S. Flinchum
Charles Fisher Camp 813