Debunking the Saintly Yankee Myth – Commentary by Steve Scroggins, 4/15/11
In the April 15th Macon Telegraph, they published an editorial entitled, It’s Time for Honesty (text below). I agree with the headline, but as you’ll see below, some correction was needed to the thrust and ideas of the editorial. What follows is my response, followed by the text of the editorial.
While the headline to your Apr. 15th editorial (“It’s Time for Honesty”) is certainly true, the body of the text definitely needs some rebuttal. It is the nationalist proponents of the modern Leviathan, the advocates of the welfare/warfare Empire, the elitist “central planners” and their “useful idiots” who have been “airbrushing” reality for a century and a half to create Lincoln mythology and the “saint yankee” myth.
Was white supremacy the prevailing attitude in the mid-19th century in ALL of America and Europe? Yes. It was. This is proven by the fact that Illinois and other northern states had passed laws prohibiting the residence of free blacks in their states… and by the fact that Union soldiers refused to serve in the same units with blacks. It was the nephew and grandson of Confederate soldiers, Harry S. Truman, who finally integrated the U.S. military after WWII.
Lincoln, in his 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas, made his white supremacist views widely known to contemporaries—but that is “airbrushed” away in history texts. For his entire career, Lincoln advocated "colonizing" (deporting) blacks outside the U.S. The nation of Liberia was established by Lincoln’s efforts. We must acknowledge that it’s a little unfair to judge Lincoln and his contemporaries as “racists” by applying our modern attitudes to the 19th century world.
But that doesn’t change the predominant facts about the war. The reasons for southern secession are NOT the same as the reasons for war. On this date 150 years ago (April 15, 1861), Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the south and force the southern states back into the union and to force collection of the recently doubled Morrill Tariff (passed March 2, 1861).
Lincoln had already declared war in his inaugural address March 4th. In it, he denied that states had the right to secede, even though the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution clearly reserve the right to states (not prohibited in the Constitution’s body). Clearly, the right to secession was presumed (explicitly stated by New York, Virginia and Rhode Island) by the Framers and, more importantly, by the states in convention (representing their peoples) who ratified the Constitution.
Lincoln’s 1861 Inaugural address also clearly stated that Lincoln had no intent, no inclination and no legal authority to interfere with slavery where it existed. He expressed his support for enshrining slavery in the Constitution with the Corwin Amendment which would permanently prohibit Congress from legislatively or constitutionally interfering with slavery.
Lincoln promised not to invade or attack anyone EXCEPT…EXCEPT to hold the forts and property of the U.S. government for the purpose of collecting tariffs. So, in essence, he was denying the right of secession and promising to invade the southern states and force them back into the union.
"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union." –Abraham Lincoln, from letter to Horace Greeley, Aug. 22, 1862
Over 16 months after the war began (Aug. 22, 1862), Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley of The New York Tribune, that slavery was not relevant to the war. He stated that his “paramount purpose” was to “preserve the union,” and that slavery had no bearing on the war effort. This was just days before the Emancipation Proclamation extended the offer, once again, to preserve slavery if the southern states would simply lay down their arms and return to the union. Right up to very near the end of the war, the south could have saved slavery by returning to the union. Independence was the southern purpose. It’s the north that betrayed the principle of “consent of the governed” from the Declaration of Independence.
The U.S. Congress held the same purpose as Lincoln for the war. In the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution dated July 25, 1861 the U.S. Congress stated clearly and unambiguously that the purpose of the war was to "preserve the union" and "not to interfere with the domestic institutions of the states."
WHY did the South fight? The South fought in SELF DEFENSE. Duh!
If Lincoln’s legions had not invaded the south and blockaded her ports, there would have been no war. The term "Civil War" is a ridiculous misnomer; the south had no intent to interfere with the government in D.C., nor any intent to seize the territory of states that did not freely join. It was a war for independence equally as justified as the colonies’ secession from Britain in 1776.
Even though no person died in the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Lincoln used it to whip up war fever in the North. As author Thomas DiLorenzo notes, the death toll from Fort Sumter was one horse. The death toll from Lincoln’s reaction to Fort Sumter was 625,000 American soldiers dead, about 50,000 southern civilians (of all races) and thousands of horses. The U.S. garrison at Fort Sumter surrendered April 14th and was allowed to leave peacefully. On April 15th, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South… and that naked aggression directly induced four more states (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas) to secede over principle rather than to condone the use of force to prevent secession.
The U.S. government could easily have purchased every slave by compensating the slave owners, and given every freed slave 40 acres and a mule and done so much cheaper than the cost of the war strictly in financial terms… and not counting the human cost. But as stated, the war was never about slavery — it was always about preventing secession and southern independence.
"The Union government liberates the enemy’s slaves as it would the enemy’s cattle, simply to weaken them in the conflict. The principle is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States." –London Spectator, 1862
"The Northern onslaught upon slavery was no more than a piece of specious humbug designed to conceal its desire for economic control of the Southern states." –Charles Dickens, 1862
The British press rightly called it a "fiscal quarrel" and they saw the “desire of the northern states for economic control of the southern states." Charles Dickens termed the North’s alleged crusade against slavery only so much “specious humbug.” Follow the money. It’s always at the core of most wars.
The northern press had a significant number who expressed the sentiment to "let them go in peace" in December 1860 and early January of 1861. When the northern money-men leaned on the northern press and explained to them how the North lost and the South won economically by their independence, the northern editorial press did an about-face and called for war rather than letting the southern states leave in peace. Read the editorials of the northern press from February through April of 1861. It was about lost trade, money and tax revenues.
No other country on earth required a war to abolish slavery. America certainly didn’t either. That war was “necessary” and that northern armies fought mainly to end slavery is the BIG LIE, the “saint yankee” myth. That the South fought mainly to “preserve slavery” is the flip side of that same lie. Such “comic book” mythology styled as “history” is infantile in its over-simplicity and it’s NOT supported by the historical record.
Brazil, a former Portuguese colony, abolished slavery in 1888 and did so without war. They were the last in the western hemisphere. Slavery would have ended in North America, most likely in the 19th century, without any war. Slavery would have ended here for economic reasons if not for moral ones.
Slavery continues today in parts of Africa and the Arab world. The U.S. spends more on its military than the next ten nations combined… and yet we ignore modern slavery and selectively target thugs who happen to rule over oil resources. Since America rose to super-power status after WWII and won the Cold War, America’s prudent and moral tradition of “non-interventionism” has gone by the wayside. Now few even blink when we bomb people for “humanitarian” reasons. The new Rome on the Potomac and the bloated welfare/warfare State, can trace its roots to the victory of Lincoln’s vandals in 1865.
Editorial board, perhaps if you educate yourselves, you could see that it’s you who are not being honest about American history.
To add broader perspective, we must acknowledge that the African slave trade had world-wide participation from the 1440s to the 1870s. All were enslaved first by their African brothers, then they were sold to European and Arab merchants. Only about five percent or 500,000 of all African slaves transported across the Atlantic were brought to what is now the U.S.A., along the way building vast financial fortunes in New England ports like Providence, New Haven, Philadelphia and Boston. The others (some 11 to 12 million) were sold by their African brothers to traders and taken to Spanish, French, Portuguese and British holdings in the Caribbean and South America. Again, all those destinations abolished slavery without a bloody war.
For centuries, the chief export of Africa was human beings. We Americans and especially we southern Americans should have no monopoly on the guilt of allowing slavery or profiting from it. The British forced it on the American colonies in order to compete for the European tobacco and sugar markets. As the late journalist Joseph Sobran wrote, “… it’s rather comical for American blacks to sentimentalize Africa and stress that they are ‘African Americans’ while cursing the Confederate flag as a symbol of slavery. Africa has a much better claim to be such a symbol.”
We Americans were relatively minor players on the vast stage of this morality play, notable only by the destruction and death we falsely attribute to its abolition—- and our continuing lies and mythology to disguise and distort an immoral war of conquest into a moral crusade to abolish slavery .
Honest people believe that we must study true history, without omission and without exaggeration. That is all the honest Southerner really wants. Slavery is a stain on HUMAN history. Your parroting of the SAINTLY YANKEE myths do not serve the greater good of education and Truth for all.
"But slavery was far from being the sole cause of the prolonged conflict. Neither its destruction on the one hand, nor its defence on the other, was the energizing force that held the contending armies to four years of bloody work. I apprehend that if all living Union soldiers were summoned to the witness-stand, every one of them would testify that it was the preservation of the American Union and not the destruction of Southern slavery that induced him to volunteer at the call of his country. As for the South, it is enough to say that perhaps eighty percent of her armies were neither slave-holders, nor had the remotest interest in the institution. No other proof, however, is needed than the undeniable fact that at any period of the war from its beginning to near its close the South could have saved slavery by simply laying down its arms and returning to the Union." –General John B. Gordon, from Reminiscences of the Civil War, page 19
"The Gettysburg speech was at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history… The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination – that government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves." –H.L. Mencken
The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: that men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals.
No principle, that is possible to be named, can be more self-evidently false than this; or more self-evidently fatal to all political freedom. Yet it triumphed in the field, and is now assumed to be established. If it be really established, the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been greatly increased; for a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not want, is a slave. And there is no difference, in principle—but only in degree—between political and chattel slavery. The former, no less than the latter, denies a man’s ownership of himself and the products of his labor; and asserts that other men may own him, and dispose of him and his property, for their uses, and at their pleasure. –Lysander Spooner, from his essay, No Treason, 1867
"It is a testament to the effectiveness of 140 years of government propaganda that a 308 page book filled with true facts about Lincoln could be entitled "The Lincoln No One Knows." It is not a matter of a poorly-performing government education system but quite the opposite: The government schools have performed superbly in indoctrinating generations of American school children with a pack of lies, myths, omissions, and falsehoods about Lincoln and his war of conquest. As Richard Bensel wrote in Yankee Leviathan, any study of the American state should begin in 1865. The power of any state ultimately rests upon a series of government-sponsored myths, and there is none more prominent than the Lincoln Myth." –Thomas DiLorenzo, from The Unknown Lincoln
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