I would just like to throw in my “2 cents” in support of Sam Ashwood, who, in his recent post, expressed his dismay at Southerners who commence their defense with the words, “Yes, we all agree that slavery was evil, but….” I couldn’t agree with Mr. Ashwood more. In fact, whenever I see a defense that opens with that line it makes me cringe.
For one thing, as Mr. Ashwood points out, the Bible itself makes no statement that the institution itself is evil. I’m definitely not a Bible scholar, but from what I’ve seen any quotes from that book deal more with the duties of both the slave and the master than with any question of right vs. wrong.
For another thing, every civilized society on the planet has had slavery at one time or another. When I was growing up, no one longed for the “good old days” of slavery, but no one expressed regret or did any mea-culpas on account of having had it either. So why has it become all the rage for people to do mea-culpas over it today? A glib answer would be that they’ve lost their collective minds. I suspect there’s a lot more to it than that but that subject is too long to address here.
When I was a kid growing up in Providence R.I., the first page of the Providence phone book said, “Serving Providence and Providence PLANTATIONS.” Anyone who read a history book knew that the state was heavily involved in the slave trade at one time. No one did any “boo-hoo’s” over it though. Things have change however. Apparently, someone has been putting crazy pills in the Providence water supply because last year the city fathers had a big discussion over removing “Plantations” from the city seal.
So what’s the best defense when someone brings up slavery and expects you to admit that it was wrong? Simply tell your critics that you refuse to drink the crazy-pills laden water and that you refuse to do a mea-culpa. Tell them flat out and watch their jaws drop. They EXPECT you to do the “slavery was terrible, but…” thing. Don’t give them the satisfaction.  
Remember too – slavery was indeed a bone of contention between the north and the south, but, as Captain Rafael Semmes once stated, if there had been no accompanying political and economic issues attached to the slavery issue, the whole slavery question would have been nothing more than an argument between clerics and philosophers. In any of the pre-war disagreements between the North and the South, you can’t address only the slavery issue. You have to address those “other” issues, of which slavery is a part. 
Finally, and most importantly, as far as the actual fighting itself goes, slavery was most certainly not the cause of the war. The North did not invade the South to “make men free.” It invaded the South to prevent it from peacefully going its own way. As I’ve pointed out many times before, Judah Benjamin, Jeff Davis, Alexander Stephens, Patrick Cleburne, Mary Chestnut, and a host of others, all made the same plea – “all we ask is to be left alone.” Leave the South alone, and you have no war.
Bill Vallante
Commack NY
Associate Member, SCV Camps 3000, 1961, 1506, 2086