Michael T. Griffith

When I began to study the Civil War, I realized that much of what I had been taught about it in school was either wrong or incomplete. It has been said that history is written by the victors. This is especially true when it comes to the Civil War. The Southern side of the story is rarely presented fairly in our public schools and textbooks today. I believe it is important that we as Americans know the whole truth about the Civil War. The purpose of this article is to present the South’s side of the story.

The following basic facts are undisputed: The seven states of the Deep South seceded in response to the victory of the Republican Party’s presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, in the 1860 election. These states formed the Confederate States of America. Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy. A small federal garrison occupied Fort Sumter, South Carolina, on December 26, 1860. The Confederate government attempted to negotiate the withdrawal of the garrison from the fort. Lincoln decided not to withdraw the garrison. Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Lincoln issued a call-up for 75,000 troops to put down what he claimed was a rebellion in the South. Four more Southern states joined the Confederacy. Lincoln sent federal armies into the South. The war lasted approximately four years and ended in April 1865.

The version of the Civil War that’s taught in nearly all textbooks goes something like this: “The only reason the South wanted to leave the Union was to protect slavery. The South had no right to secede. The South started the war by firing on Fort Sumter. The war was fought over slavery. The defeat of the South was a victory for government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’” This is the version of the war that I accepted for most of my life.

We will consider twelve issues relating to the Civil War: Why Did the South Secede? Did the South Have the Right to Secede? What Caused the War? Who Started the War? The Emancipation Proclamation. Republicans, the North, and Racism. Was the War Fought Over Slavery? What Happened at Andersonville Prison? Did the South Control the Federal Government Until 1860? The Reconstruction Era. The True Nature of the War. And, What If the South Had Been Allowed to Go in Peace?

Why Did the South Secede?

Nearly all textbooks give the impression that the South withdrew from the Union merely to protect the institution of slavery. This is a misleading, overly simplistic characterization. Slavery was not the only factor that led the South to secede. In fact, some of the wealthiest slaveholders opposed secession. They believed, for good reason, that slavery would actually be safer in the Union than out of it. Historian William Klingaman notes that even Lincoln argued that the South would have a harder time protecting slavery outside the Union:

But secession, Lincoln argued, would actually make it harder for the South to preserve slavery. If the Southern states tried to leave the Union, they would lose all their constitutional guarantees. . . . (Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, New York: Viking Press, 2001, p. 32)

Most people aren’t aware that, even as president, Lincoln supported a proposed constitutional amendment that would have guaranteed slavery’s continuation forever. Lincoln mentioned his support for this amendment in his first inaugural address. In the years leading up to the Civil War, Lincoln acknowledged that slavery was protected by the Constitution. He also supported the Fugitive Slave Law. Therefore, some Southern statesmen didn’t believe Lincoln was going to threaten slavery’s existence. Yet, they supported secession anyway.

Most Southern leaders who advocated secession in order to protect slavery did so because they believed that Lincoln and the Republicans in Congress would try to abolish slavery by unconstitutional means and that Southern slaveholders would not receive compensation for their slaves. Southern spokesmen felt this would be unfair, since Northern slaveholders had been able to receive compensation for their slaves when most Northern states had abolished slavery several decades earlier. They knew that emancipation without compensation would do great damage to the Southern economy. Critics note that many Southern statesmen voiced the view that slavery was a “positive good.” Yet, even the “positive good” advocates acknowledged that slavery had its evils and abuses. In any case, there were plenty of Southerners who opposed slavery and who were willing to see it abolished in a fair, gradual manner, as had been done in most Northern states. After all, 69-75 percent of Southern families did not own slaves. However, few Southerners believed the Republicans were interested in a fair, gradual emancipation program. The more extreme Republicans, who were known as “Radical Republicans,” certainly weren’t interested in such a program.

Few people today understand why the South distrusted the Republican Party. Not only was the Republican Party a new party, it was also the first purely regional (or sectional) party in the country’s history. Moreover, Republican leaders frequently gave inflammatory anti-Southern speeches, some of which included egregious falsehoods and even threats (Susan-Mary Grant, North Over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era, University of Kansas Press, 2000). Historian William C. Cooper points out that the Republicans “had no interest in cultivating support in the South, which they branded as basically un-American,” and that “No major party had ever before so completely repudiated the South” (Jefferson Davis, American, Vintage Books Edition, New York: Vintage Books, 2000, pp. 294, 295). British historian Susan-Mary Grant notes that the Republican Party that came into being in 1854 was “a sectional party with a sectional ideology . . . that was predicated on opposition to the South, to the economic, social, and political reality of that section” (North Over South, p. 17). Southerners were alarmed when dozens of Republican congressmen endorsed an advertisement for Hinton Helper’s book The Impending Crisis of the South, which spoke approvingly of a potential slave revolt that would kill untold numbers of Southern citizens in a “barbarous massacre.” The Republican Party even distributed an abridged edition of the book as a campaign document, and Republican editors added captions like “The Stupid Masses of the South” and “Revolution . . . Violently If We Must.” Southerners also noticed that the Republicans broke the long-established tradition of having a sectionally balanced presidential ticket. For decades, all major political parties had nominated tickets that consisted of one candidate from the North and one from the South. Each of the three other parties in the 1860 election followed this tradition, but not the Republican Party. Another reason that Southerners were worried about the Republicans was that the party’s leaders made it clear they would push for several policies that the South believed were harmful and unconstitutional. Many Southerners feared that Republican leaders were determined to subjugate and exploit the South by any means. With these facts in mind, perhaps it’s not hard to understand why the election of Lincoln triggered the secession of seven Southern states.

As mentioned, slavery was not the only factor that led to secession. If one reads the Declarations of Causes of Secession and the Ordinances of Secession that were issued by the first seven states of the Confederacy, one finds that there were several reasons these states wanted to be independent and that some of the reasons had nothing to do with slavery. For example, the Georgia and Texas Declarations of Causes of Secession included economic complaints, in addition to concerns relating to slavery. The Texas declaration complained that unfair federal legislation was enriching the North at the expense of the Southern states:


[the Northern states] have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.

The Georgia declaration complained about federal protectionism and subsidies for Northern business interests:

The material prosperity of the North was greatly dependent on the Federal Government; that of the South not at all. In the first years of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 [about $8.5 million in today’s dollars] is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade. Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury, and the Government now pays above $2,000,000 annually [about $34 million today] for the support of these objects. These interests, in connection with the commercial and manufacturing classes, have also succeeded, by means of subventions to mail steamers and the reduction in postage, in relieving their business from the payment of about $7,000,000 annually [about $119 million today], throwing it upon the public Treasury under the name of postal deficiency. The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors.

The South’s long-standing opposition to the federal tariff was another factor that led to secession. The South’s concern over the tariff was nothing new. South Carolina and the federal government nearly went to war over the tariff in 1832-1833. In the session of Congress before Lincoln’s inauguration, the House of Representatives passed a huge increase in the tariff, over the loud objections of Southern congressmen. Naturally, this alarmed Southern statesmen at all levels, since the South was always hit hardest by the tariff. One only has to read the many speeches that Southern senators and representatives gave against the 1860-1861 tariff increase to see how seriously they took this issue. Moreover, in the congressional debates from the previous four decades, one can find dozens of Southern speeches against the tariff. Opposition to the tariff led some Southern leaders to talk of secession over thirty years before the Civil War occurred (Walter Brian Cisco, Taking A Stand: Portraits from the Southern Secession Movement, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane Books, 2000, pp. 1-44). Scholars who argue that Southern statesmen didn’t really care about the tariff and that this was merely a “smoke screen” are ignoring a massive body of historical evidence.

The South had valid complaints about the tariff. Charles Adams, an authority on the history of taxation, observes that the Southern states paid a disproportionately high share of the tariff:

The high tariff in the North compelled the Southern states to pay tribute to the North, either in taxes to fatten Republican coffers or in the inflated prices that had to be paid for Northern goods. Besides being unfair, this violated the uniformity command of the Constitution by having the South pay an undue proportion of the national revenue, which was expended more in the North than in the South: When some of the compromise tariffs of the 1830s and 1840s are analyzed, the total revenue was around $107.5 million, with the South paying about $90 million and the North $17.5 million. These are round numbers but they also coincide with export numbers. In 1860, total exports from the South totaled $214 million, and from the North around $47 million. In both instances the percentage for the South (taxes and exports) was approximately 87 percent, and 17 percent for the North. To add further salt to the wounds of the South on matters of revenue, fishing bounties for New Englanders were approximately $13 million, paid from the national Treasury, hence 83 percent from the South. And with a monopoly on shipping from Southern ports, the South paid Northern shipping–$36 million. So the numbers show that the South’s claim to be, in effect, paying tribute to the North has a factual basis. (When In the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000, pp. 26-27)

Economist Frank Taussig, one of the foremost authorities on the tariff, acknowledged that the tariff fell with “particular weight” on the South:

The Southern members, who were almost to a man supporters of Jackson, were opposed unconditionally not only to an increase of duties, but to the high range which the tariff had already reached. They were convinced, and in the main justly convinced, that the taxes levied by the tariff fell with particular weight on the slave States. . . . (The Tariff History of the United States, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1910, p. 54, emphasis added)

Jeffrey R. Hummel, a professor of economics and history, notes the negative impact of the tariff on the Southern states and concedes that Southern complaints about the tariff were justified:

Despite a steady decline in import duties, tariffs fell disproportionately on Southerners, reducing their income from cotton production by at least 10 percent just before the Civil War. . . .

At least with respect to the tariff’s adverse impact, Southerners were not only absolutely correct but displayed a sophisticated understanding of economics. . . . The tariff was inefficient; it not only redistributed wealth from farmers and planters to manufacturers and laborers but overall made the country poorer. (Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, Chicago: Open Court, 1996, pp. 39-40, 73)

Civil War scholars William and Bruce Catton summarized the economic case that Southern leaders put forth in favor of secession:

On the economic front, long-standing Southern grievances against Northern financial and commercial exploitation, Northern high-tariff policies, Northern monopoly of the coastwise trade, and similar items, were contrasted to the bright future that awaited an independent South, secure and prosperous on a foundation of cotton, free trade, and an inexhaustible European market with no Northern middlemen to siphon off the profits. (Two Roads to Sumter: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, and the March to Civil War, Edison, New Jersey: Castle Books, 2004, reprint of original edition, p. 251)

A major point of contention between the North and the South was the issue of the size and power of the federal government as defined by the Constitution. Most Northern politicians supported a loose reading of the Constitution and wanted to expand the size and scope of the federal government, even if that meant giving the government powers that were not authorized by the Constitution. Most Southern statesmen supported a strict reading of the Constitution and believed the federal government should perform only those functions that were expressly delegated to it by the Constitution. From the earliest days of the republic, Southern and Northern leaders battled over this issue. Our textbooks rarely do justice to this important fact.

Four of the eleven Southern states did not join in the first wave of secession and did not secede over slavery. Those four states—Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia—only seceded months later when Lincoln made it clear he was going to launch an invasion in order to “save” the Union. In fact, those states initially voted against secession by fairly sizable majorities. However, they believed the Union should not be maintained by force. Therefore, when Lincoln announced he was calling up 75,000 troops to form an invasion force, they held new votes, and in each case the vote was strongly in favor of secession. Thus, four of the eleven states that comprised the Confederacy seceded because of their objection to federal coercion and not because of slavery.

Virtually no history textbooks mention the fact that each Confederate state retained the right to abolish slavery within its borders, and that the Confederate Constitution permitted the admission of free states into the Confederacy. In his analysis of the Confederate Constitution, historian Forrest McDonald says the following:

All states reserved the right to abolish slavery in their domains, and new states could be admitted without slavery if two-thirds of the existing states agreed—the idea being that the tier of free states bordering the Ohio River might in time wish to join the Confederacy. (States’ Rights and the Union, University of Kansas Press, 2000, p. 204)

Did the South Have the Right to Secede?

I believe the evidence is clear that the South had the right to secede. None other than Ulysses S. Grant, the commanding general of the Union army for much of the Civil War and later a president of the United States, admitted he believed that if any of the original thirteen states had wanted to secede in the early days of the Union, it was unlikely the other states would have challenged that state’s right to do so. Grant also conceded he believed the founding fathers would have sanctioned the right of secession rather than see a war “between brothers.” Said Grant,

If there had been a desire on the part of any single State to withdraw from the compact at any time while the number of States was limited to the original thirteen, I do not suppose there would have been any to contest the right, no matter how much the determination might have been regretted. . . .

If they [the founding fathers] had foreseen it, the probabilities are they would have sanctioned the right of a State or States to withdraw rather than that there should be war between brothers. (The Personal Memoirs Of Ulysses S. Grant, Old Saybrook, Connecticut: Konecky & Konecky, 1992, reprint of original edition, pp. 130-131)

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts wrote the following in 1899 in his biography of the great Daniel Webster:

When the Constitution was adopted by the votes of States at Philadelphia, and accepted by the votes of States in popular conventions, it is safe to say there was no man in this country, from Washington and Hamilton on the one side to George Clinton and George Mason on the other, who regarded our system of Government, when first adopted, as anything but an experiment entered upon by the States, and from which each and every State had the right to peaceably withdraw, a right which was very likely to be exercised. (Henry Cabot Lodge, Daniel Webster, Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1899, p. 176)

There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits a state from peacefully and democratically separating from the Union. Indeed, the right of secession is implied in the Tenth Amendment, which reads,

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The Constitution does not give the federal government the power to force a state to remain in the Union against its will. President James Buchanan acknowledged this fact in a message to Congress shortly before Lincoln assumed office. Nor does the Constitution prohibit the citizens of a state from voting to repeal their state’s ratification of the Constitution. Therefore, by a plain reading of the Tenth Amendment, a state has the legal right to peacefully withdraw from the Union.

Critics of the Confederacy cite certain clauses in the Constitution about the supremacy of federal law or about states not being allowed to enter into treaties with foreign powers, etc., etc. However, it goes without saying that such clauses only apply to states that are in the Union. There’s simply nothing in the Constitution that says a state can’t peacefully and democratically revoke its ratification. If a state’s citizens were to vote in a legitimate democratic process to revoke the state’s ratification of the Constitution, either by direct vote or by convention, then that state would no longer be bound by the Constitution. The citizens of each state are the ultimate sovereign, not the federal government. The federal government is supposed to be servant of the people, not their master. Even Lloyd Paul Stryker, who opposed secession, admitted the Southern states had an “arguable claim that no specific section of the Constitution stood in their way,” i.e., no section of the Constitution prohibited peaceful, democratic separation (Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1930, p. 447).

Critics also quote a few statements made by founding father James Madison that seem to argue against secession, but they ignore other statements that indicate Madison believed there were cases when a state could leave the Union. When Madison discussed the conditions under which a state could secede from the Articles of Confederation, without the consent of the other states, he appealed to the natural right of self-preservation and to the principle that the safety and happiness of society were the objects to which all political institutions "must be sacrificed." Said Madison,

The first question [how a state could secede without approval from the other states] is answered at once by recurring to the absolute necessity of the case; to the great principle of self-preservation; to the transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed. (Federalist Number 43)

This is important because the Articles of Confederation expressly stated that the union they were creating was “perpetual” and that that union could only be altered by the approval of all the states. Now, if the natural right of self-preservation allowed a state to peacefully leave the "perpetual" union of the Articles of Confederation without the consent of the other states, then logic demands that this natural right would also permit a state to peacefully leave the federal Union, which was not described as perpetual. (Some authors argue that the phrase “to form a more perfect union” in the Constitution’s preamble means the Union was intended to be permanent and that therefore secession was illegal. But this phrase clearly refers to the Union’s effectiveness, not to its duration. Something can be perfect but not necessarily perpetual. Many Americans believed the union of the Articles of Confederation had proven to be somewhat inefficient in certain respects. Therefore, they thought a “more perfect union” was needed. It is significant that even though the framers borrowed heavily from the Articles of Confederation when they wrote the Constitution, not once did they use the word “perpetual” in that document to describe the new union, even though the word “perpetual” appears five times in the Articles.)

It’s true that Madison told Alexander Hamilton that if New York joined the Union, it had to do so "in toto and forever.” Yet, New York entered the Union on the basis of a ratification ordinance that specifically said its citizens had the right to resume the powers of government if they felt the need to do so. It’s also true that Madison told Nicholas Trist that no state could "at pleasure" leave the Union. But Madison also told Trist there were conditions in which a state could release itself from the Union. In his letter to Trist, Madison said,

Applying a like view of the subject to the case of the U. S. it results, that the compact being among individuals as embodied into States, no State can at pleasure release itself therefrom, and set up for itself. The compact can only be dissolved by the consent of the other parties, or by usurpations or abuses of power justly having that effect." (Letter from James Madison to Nicholas P. Trist, February 15, 1830, emphasis added)

Notice that Madison was talking about a state that wanted to "release itself" from the Union, and that he said this could be done by the consent of the other states or by usurpations or abuses that were so serious that they had the same effect. Thus, according to Madison, if a state was being subjected to abuses or usurpations, this gave the state the same right to leave the compact as if the other states had agreed to the separation. Notice, too, that Madison didn’t say, “No state can release itself from the compact.” He said no state could “at pleasure” release itself from the compact, which in and of itself implied there were conditions under which a state could separate. And, as noted, Madison gave those conditions—the consent of the other states or egregious abuses or usurpations.

Madison’s statements to Trist are consistent with what Madison said about states rights and the nature of the federal government. After all, it was Madison who said that the states had the right to decide when the federal government was abusing its powers and that in such cases the states could interpose their authority in order to protect their citizens. In his report on the Virginia Resolution, Madison said,

The constitution of the United States was formed by the sanction of the states, given by each in its sovereign capacity. It adds to the stability and dignity, as well as to the authority, of the constitution, that it rests upon this legitimate and solid foundation. The states, then, being the parties to the constitutional compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity that there can be no tribunal above their authority to decide, in the last resort, whether the compact made by them be violated and consequently that, as the parties to it, they must themselves decide, in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interposition. (The Madison Report in the Virginia Report of 1799-1800)

The great early American constitutional scholar William Rawle said a state had the right to secede. Rawle was a contemporary of founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and was appointed by George Washington as the first U.S. Attorney for Pennsylvania. Rawle’s book A View of the Constitution of the United States was used as a legal textbook at a number of universities, including West Point, Dartmouth, and Harvard. To this day, scholars who debate legal issues relating to the First and Second Amendments refer to Rawle’s work. On the issue of secession, Rawle said,

It depends on the state itself to retain or abolish the principle of representation, because it depends on itself whether it will continue a member of the Union. To deny this right would be inconsistent with the principle on which all our political systems are founded, which is, that the people have in all cases, a right to determine how they will be governed.

This right must be considered as an ingredient in the original composition of the general government, which, though not expressed, was mutually understood. . . . (A View of the Constitution of the United States, 2nd Edition, 1829, Vol. 4, p. 571)

Another early American legal giant, George Tucker, also said a state had the right to secede. Like Rawle, Tucker was a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and corresponded with the former. Tucker came to be known as the “American Blackstone.” Tucker was a professor of law at the University of William and Mary. He served as the chief justice of the Virginia supreme court and was appointed as a federal district court judge by James Madison. Tucker’s 1803 edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries, which he annotated to American law, was widely used for the teaching of law in the United States for years. On the issue of secession, Tucker wrote that the states’ participation in the Union was voluntary and that each state had the right to resume to “the most unlimited extent” the functions that it had delegated to the federal government:

The federal government, then, appears to be the organ through which the united republics communicate with foreign nations and with each other. Their submission to its operation is voluntary: its councils, its engagements, its authority are theirs, modified, and united. Its sovereignty is an emanation from theirs, not a flame by which they have been consumed, nor a vortex in which they are swallowed up. Each is still a perfect state, still sovereign, still independent, and still capable, should the situation require, to resume the exercise of its functions as such in the most unlimited extent. (Tucker, editor, Blackstone’s Commentaries: With Notes of Reference to the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Government of the United States, Volume 1, Philadelphia: William Birch and Abraham Small, 1803, Appendix: Note D, Section 3:IV)

The Union was never meant to be held together by force. The Southern states joined the Union voluntarily, and they should have been able to leave it voluntarily. A key principle of Americanism is the sacred right of self-government, that government should only govern “with the consent of the governed.” This noble idea is expressed in the Declaration of Independence. America came into existence by secession from England. There was only a war because England wouldn’t allow the American colonies to leave in peace. George Washington’s secretary of state, Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts, rightly said that America was founded on the principle of secession. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States, said in a letter to William Crawford in 1816 that if a state wanted to leave the Union, he would not hesitate to say “Let us separate,” even if he didn’t agree with the reasons the state wanted to leave.

The principle of peaceful separation was as American as apple pie. But Lincoln, relying on an utterly erroneous understanding of the founding of the Union, declared that secession was “treason,” “insurrection,” and “rebellion.” If Lincoln had been alive during the Revolutionary War and had used the same kind of reasoning that he used against Southern secession, he would have sided with the British.

Lincoln defenders argue that secession was a hostile act because it constituted resistance to federal authority and that therefore secession was in fact “treason, rebellion, and insurrection.” This is specious, totalitarian reasoning. By this logic, all independence movements could be viewed as illegal by definition. Furthermore, if the Southern states had the right to secede, then federal authority ceased to exist in those states when they withdrew from the Union. Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon put it this way in a speech to the Senate on March 2, 1861, just days before the Confederacy was formed:

My residence is in the North, but I have never seen the day, and I never shall, when I will refuse justice as readily to the South as to the North. . . .

Sir, if there is, as I contend, the right of secession, then, whenever a State exercises that right, this Government has no laws in that State to execute, nor has it any property in any such state that can be protected by the power of this Government. In attempting, however, to substitute the smooth phrases “executing the laws” and “protecting public property” for coercion, for civil war, we have an important concession: that is, that this Government dare not go before the people with a plain avowal of its real purposes and of their consequences. No, sir; the policy is to inveigle the people of the North into civil war, by masking the designs in smooth and ambiguous terms. (Congressional Globe, Second Session, Thirty-Sixth Congress, p. 1347, in Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 1, New York: De Capo Press, 1990, reprint of original edition, pp. 216-217)

In addition, the South had no desire to overthrow the federal government. The South seceded in a peaceful, democratic manner, with the support of the overwhelming majority of Southern citizens. The Southern states used the same process to secede that the original thirteen states used to ratify the U.S. Constitution, i.e., by voting in special conventions comprised of delegates who were elected by the people. The one exception was Tennessee, which, instead of holding a convention, passed a secession resolution in the state legislature and then held a referendum in which secession won by a margin of more than two to one. Two of the states that held conventions, Texas and Virginia, submitted their conventions’ decisions to a popular vote, even though the delegates to the conventions had been elected by the people; in both cases, secession won by overwhelming majorities—by a margin of three to one in Texas and nearly four to one in Virginia. Furthermore, most Southerners believed secession would be peaceful. In fact, it’s revealing that the early correspondence of the first Confederate secretary of war, Leroy Walker, "clearly indicates he did not expect war" (Rembert Patrick, Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet, Louisiana State University Press, 1944, p. 106).

On the basis of the natural right to self-government alone, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the South had the right to leave the Union in peace. The declaration says that governments derive their just powers “from the consent of the governed,” that people can “dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another” and can then assume “the separate and equal status” to which “the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them,” and that people have a natural right to “alter or abolish” their form of government.

Lincoln defenders contend that the Declaration of Independence merely refers to the natural right to revolt against tyranny. They argue there is no natural right of peaceful separation, only a natural right of violent revolution to escape oppression. This strikes me as a rather undemocratic viewpoint. For one thing, a revolution does not necessarily have to be violent. The Glorious Revolution in England, for example, was peaceful. Furthermore, is independence only to be achieved by violence? Is independence only for those who can fight their way to it? Do only the strong get to enjoy self-government? This is not what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and it’s not what the other founding fathers had in mind when they embraced the document (McDonald, States’ Rights and the Union, pp. 7-11). Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, who later became the Confederate president, commented on this issue in a speech he gave in the Senate two months before the Confederacy was established:

Now, sir, we are confusing language very much. Men speak of revolution; and when they say revolution they mean blood. Our fathers meant nothing of the sort. When they spoke of revolution they meant an unalienable right. When they declared as an unalienable right the power of the people to abrogate and modify their form of government whenever it did not answer the ends for which it was established, they did not mean that they were to sustain that by brute force. They meant that it was a right; and force could only be invoked when that right was wrongfully denied. Great Britain denied the right in the case of the colonies, and therefore our revolution for independence was bloody. If Great Britain had admitted the great American doctrine, there would have been no blood shed. . . .

If the Declaration of Independence be true (and who here gainsays it?), every community may dissolve its connection with any other community previously made, and have no other obligation than that which results from the breach of an alliance between States. Is it to be supposed; could any man . . . come to the conclusion that the men who fought the battles of the Revolution . . . in order that they might possess those unalienable rights which they had declared—terminated their great efforts by transmitting posterity to a condition in which they could only gain those rights by force? If so, the blood of the Revolution was shed in vain. . . . (Speech in the U.S. Senate, January 10, 1861, in The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 1, pp. 531-532)

John O’Sullivan, the editor of the influential United States Magazine and the man who coined the famous phrase “Manifest Destiny” because he believed God wanted America to expand, said that the South had the right to leave in peace and that to deny that right violated the Declaration of Independence. O’Sullivan argued that the North’s attempt to force the South back into the Union served “to stultify our revolution; to blaspheme our very Declaration of Independence; to repudiate all our history” (Grant, North Over South, p. 165; cf. Robert Divine, Robert Divine, T. H. Bren, George Fredrickson, and R. Hal Williams, editors, America Past and Present, Fifth Edition, New York: Longman, 1999, p. 360).

What Caused the War?

The war was fought because Lincoln refused to allow the South to go in peace. Other Republican leaders and certain Northern business interests played key roles in the decision to use force, but ultimately Lincoln was the one who had to make the decision, and he chose to launch an invasion. The fighting and dying started when federal armies invaded the South. That’s why most of the battles were fought in the Southern states. If Lincoln had not launched an invasion, there would have been no war.

The Confederacy did not want war. One of the first things Jefferson Davis did after assuming office as president of the Confederacy was to send a peace delegation to Washington, D.C., in an effort to establish friendly ties with the federal government (Cooper, Jefferson Davis, American, pp. 360-362; Kenneth Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996, pp. 156-157). The Confederacy offered to pay the South’s share of the national debt and to pay compensation for all federal installations in the Southern states (Charles Roland, The Confederacy, University of Chicago Press, 1960, p. 28; Patrick, Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet, p. 77; William C. Davis, Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America, New York: The Free Press, 2002, p. 87). The Confederacy also announced that Northern ships would continue to enjoy free navigation of the Mississippi River (Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, p. 138; Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 1, pp. 210-213). Yet, Lincoln rejected all Confederate peace offers and insisted that federal armies would invade if the Southern states didn’t renounce their independence and recognize federal authority.

“Why,” one may ask, “did Confederates sometimes refer to themselves as ‘rebels’?” Actually, many Confederates resented that term (see, for example, Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 1, pp. 282-284). Those Confederates who described themselves as “rebels” did so only in the sense that they were “rebelling” against being invaded and subjugated. Lincoln, on the other hand, labeled Confederates as “rebels” in order to reinforce his fraudulent claim that the South was trying to overthrow the federal government.

It should be pointed out that many Northern citizens opposed the war and believed the South should be allowed to leave in peace. Dozens of Northern newspapers expressed the view that the Southern states had the right to peacefully leave the Union and that it would be wrong to use force to compel them to stay. Even President James Buchanan told Congress in an official message shortly before Lincoln assumed office that the federal government had no right to use force against the seceded states.

Who Started the War?

The standard textbook answer to this question is that the South obviously started the war because it “fired the first shot” by attacking Fort Sumter, which was located in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Most textbooks don’t mention several facts that put the attack in proper perspective. For example, after the Fort Sumter incident, the Confederacy continued to express its desire for peaceful relations with the North. Not a single federal soldier was killed in the attack. The Confederates allowed the federal troops at the fort to return to the North in peace after they surrendered. South Carolina and then the Confederacy offered to pay compensation for the fort. Lincoln later admitted he deliberately provoked the attack so he could use it as justification for an invasion. The Confederates only attacked the fort after they learned that Lincoln had sent an armed naval convoy to resupply the federal garrison at the fort. The sending of the convoy violated the repeated promises of Lincoln’s secretary of state, William Seward, that the fort would be evacuated. Seward continued to promise the Confederacy that the fort would be evacuated even after he knew that Lincoln had decided to send the convoy. Major John Anderson, the Union officer who commanded the federal garrison at the fort, opposed the sending of the convoy, because he felt it would violate the assurances that the fort would be evacuated, because he knew it would be viewed as a hostile act, and because he did not want war. Several weeks before the Fort Sumter incident, Lincoln virtually declared war on the South in his inaugural address, even though he knew the Confederacy wanted peaceful relations.

In his inaugural speech, given weeks before the attack on Fort Sumter, Lincoln threatened to invade the seceded states if they didn’t continue to pay federal “duties and imposts” (the tariff) and/or if they didn’t allow the federal government to occupy and maintain all federal installations within their borders. Imagine what the American colonists would have thought if the British had said to them, “We want peace. But, we’re going to invade you if you don’t keep paying our tariff and/or if you don’t allow us to occupy and maintain all British installations within your borders.” The colonists would have rightly regarded this as a virtual declaration of war. Of course, in effect, the British did say this to the colonies. This was the same position that Lincoln presented to the Confederate states weeks before the Fort Sumter attack. Furthermore, five months earlier, some Republicans in Congress publicly swore “by everything in the heavens above and the earth beneath” that they would convert the seceded states “into a wilderness” (James McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, New York: Ballantine Books, 1988, p. 251).

Jefferson Davis argued that the attack on Fort Sumter was an act of self-defense:

The attempt to represent us as the aggressors in the conflict which ensued is as unfounded as the complaint made by the wolf against the lamb in the familiar fable. He who makes the assault is not necessarily he that strikes the first blow or fires the first gun. To have awaited further strengthening of their position by land and naval forces, with hostile purpose now declared, for the sake of having them “fire the first gun” would have been as unwise as it would be to hesitate to strike down the arm of the assailant, who levels a deadly weapon at one’s breast, until he has actually fired. After the assault was made by the hostile descent of the fleet, the reduction of Fort Sumter was a measure of defense rendered absolutely and immediately necessary. (The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Peter Smith Edition, Gloucester, Massachusetts: Peter Smith, 1971, reprint of original edition, p. 154, original emphasis)

Davis had a valid point. The naval convoy that Lincoln sent to Fort Sumter was no innocent “relief” flotilla. It included warships and over one thousand troops. It was being sent to Charleston against the wishes of South Carolina and the Confederacy, and in violation of the repeated high-level assurances that the fort would be evacuated. Any country on earth would view the sending of an unwanted armed naval convoy into one of its major ports as an act of aggression. The Confederates were well aware that Lincoln had already threatened to invade the Confederate states if they did not in effect give up their independence, and that some congressional Republicans had already sworn to turn the Deep South states “into a wilderness.” When all the facts are considered, the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter can be viewed as a justified defensive reaction to the impending arrival of an unwanted naval force.

If Lincoln had desired peace, he knew all he had to do was evacuate Fort Sumter, as his own secretary of state had been promising would be done for weeks. When the Confederate authorities were told the fort was going to be evacuated, Confederate forces stopped building up the defenses around the harbor and celebrated. Across the harbor, Major Anderson was grateful the fort would be evacuated and that therefore North and South would separate peacefully:

Confidently, he [Seward] told Supreme Court Justice John Campbell that Sumter was to be evacuated in three days. Campbell relayed this to the commissioners [the Confederate peace commissioners] and they promptly informed President Davis. The news of Anderson’s imminent departure was believed in the South. Troops stopped work on the Charleston batteries and fired salutes in celebration. The major [Major Anderson] too assumed it was true and thanked God that “the separation which has been inevitable for months, will be consummated without the shedding of one droop of blood.” Since war was thus avoided he hoped that the departed states “may at some future time be won back by conciliation and justice.” (Cisco, Taking A Stand, pp. 105-106)

But, sadly, Lincoln didn’t pursue peace with the Confederacy. For a while it seemed as though he was prepared to evacuate Fort Sumter, in spite of his earlier statements to the contrary. Initially all but two of his cabinet members urged evacuation, as did his general-in-chief, General Winfield Scott. However, Radical Republicans and influential Northern business interests applied intense pressure on Lincoln and on his cabinet not to evacuate the fort. Radicals in the Senate threatened impeachment if the fort were evacuated (Catton and Catton, Two Roads to Sumter, p. 277). Once the low Confederate tariff was announced, powerful Northern business interests came out strongly opposed to peace with the Confederacy, and Lincoln’s cabinet quickly reversed its position evacuation. As the pressure for aggression mounted, Lincoln decided to provoke an attack on the fort in order to use the attack as a pretext for invasion and to whip up a majority of the Northern public into a war frenzy against the South. Some Northerners saw through Lincoln’s ploy. But in the heat of the moment many Northerners were fooled by it, while others were already so anti-Southern that they didn’t care. A number of Northern newspapers opined that Lincoln had provoked the attack in order to use it as an excuse to wage war on the South. Lincoln himself later admitted in two letters that he provoked the attack for that purpose (Francis Butler Simkins, A History of the South, Third Edition, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963, pp. 213, 215-216; J. G. Randall and David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction, Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1960, p. 174).

Some Northern leaders who wanted peace urged that Fort Sumter be evacuated. Among those leaders was General-In-Chief Winfield Scott and Senator Stephen Douglas, one of the most prominent Northern members of the U.S. Senate. Scott and Douglas both recognized that the continued federal occupation of Fort Sumter was a virtual declaration of war against the Confederacy. Any country on earth would strongly resent the unwanted occupation of an island in one of its major harbors.

Before the Confederacy was established, South Carolina, the first state to secede, sent commissioners to Washington in an effort to negotiate the peaceful evacuation of the federal garrison in Charleston. The garrison was then located at Fort Moultrie. Without warning and without specific orders to do so, the garrison destroyed the guns and gun carriages at Fort Moultrie, abandoned it, and then occupied Fort Sumter. Understandably, Southerners viewed this as a hostile act. President Buchanan was still in office at this time. He had no intention of invading the South, and he had not ordered the occupation of Fort Sumter, but he wavered about evacuating the fort. He was under intense pressure from Northern hardliners on the one hand and from Southern members of Congress and peace advocates on the other hand. He eventually decided against evacuation. One of the commissioners from South Carolina, I. W. Hayne, said the following in a letter to President Buchanan after he refused to evacuate the fort:

You say that the fort was garrisoned for our protection, and is held for the same purposes for which it has ever been held since its construction. Are you not aware, that to hold, in the territory of a foreign power, a fortress against her will, avowedly for the purpose of protecting her citizens, is perhaps the highest insult which one government can offer to another? But Fort Sumter was never garrisoned at all until South Carolina had dissolved her connection with your government. This garrison entered it in the night, with every circumstance of secrecy, after spiking the guns and burning the gun-carriages and cutting down the flag-staff of an adjacent fort, which was then abandoned. South Carolina had not taken Fort Sumter into her own possession, only because of her misplaced confidence in a government which deceived her. (In Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Peter Smith Edition, p. 119)

Republicans protested loudly over the fact that several Southern states seized numerous federal installations before Lincoln assumed office and in a few cases before the state had voted to secede. Modern critics tend to make a mountain out of a molehill over this issue, as if those seizures alone justified a brutal invasion. Nearly all the seizures occurred after the state had already seceded, so in those cases the state arguably had every right to assume control of federal facilities within its borders. Most of the relatively few pre-secession seizures took place when there was no doubt the state was going to secede. In one case, local citizens seized a federal installation on their own initiative. When the governor learned of the seizure, he ordered the citizens to leave the facility. Not one of the seizures involved the loss of life. A number of the federal facilities that were seized were of little consequence and were manned only by small garrisons. Admittedly, the pre-secession seizures, though few in number, were unwise and arguably illegal. However, let’s keep in mind that these seizures posed no threat to the federal government, that they were bloodless, and that the Confederacy offered to pay compensation for all federal installations in the South. The seizures certainly didn’t provide any credible justification for a federal invasion, and they were hardly what one could call “aggression” in any meaningful sense of the word.

The Emancipation Proclamation

Everyone can agree that slavery needed to be abolished. However, the Emancipation Proclamation, signed on January 1, 1863, left over 400,000 slaves in bondage. Let’s take a moment to consider the purpose, nature, and legality of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The proclamation was a war measure, as the document itself states. The Radical Republicans hoped the proclamation would produce a slave revolt in the South, even if this resulted in the deaths of thousands of women and children on plantations and farms. (Perhaps it’s an indication of how most slaves were treated that no such revolt ever occurred, even though many plantations and farms were being run by women and children at the time, since most of the men were engaged in the war effort.)

The proclamation did not free a single slave in any of the four Union slave states nor in any of the regions of the South that were then under Union control. The proclamation excluded the slaves in those areas. The proclamation only applied to slaves in the Confederate states, where Lincoln had no authority to enforce it. Slavery continued in the Northern slave states and in the South for the rest of the war and wasn’t abolished until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in late 1865. Historians John Blum and Bruce Catton commented on the limited nature of the proclamation:

The Emancipation Proclamation asserted freedom for slaves in those areas that were not under control of the federal government and left slavery untouched in areas where federal control was effective. It seemed a halting measure of dubious effect and shaky legality, and the Confederates denounced it as a call for a slave revolt. (In Blum and Catton, Edmund Morgan, Arthur Schlesinger, Kenneth Stampp, and C. Vann Woodward, editors, The National Experience: A History of the United States, Second Edition, New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1968, p. 360)

African-American scholar Lerone Bennett documents that Lincoln only issued the proclamation under intense pressure from the Radical Republicans, who were threatening to cut off funds to the army if emancipation wasn’t made a war objective, and that Lincoln only began to seriously consider the Radicals’ demands after Union forces suffered several defeats (Bennett, Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 2000, pp. 23-24, 415-420, 498-504; see also Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, pp. 139, 148-149, 200-202). Bennett also shows that Lincoln sought to undermine the proclamation almost as soon as he issued it.

The proclamation provided no compensation for slaveholders, even though Lincoln himself had said this should be done, and even though most slaveholders treated their slaves humanely (as even many abolitionists had once been willing to admit). Few Northern abolitionists had ever supported compensated emancipation. The Radical Republicans certainly weren’t about to support such a plan. They didn’t care that several Northern states had reaped fantastic profits from the slave trade. Nor did they care that when most Northern states had abolished slavery they had done so gradually and in a manner that enabled Northern slaveholders to recover the cost of their slaves.

If the Southern states were still actually in the Union, as Lincoln and other Republicans incredibly claimed, then the Emancipation Proclamation was unconstitutional. Neither Lincoln nor Congress had the right to abolish slavery in any state. The only legal ways to abolish it would have been by a constitutional amendment or by the states abolishing it on their own.

Of course, the Southern states had in fact left the Union, and everyone knew it. Lincoln only denied this fact because he knew the federal government had no constitutional right to invade states that had peacefully and democratically separated from the Union. Since the Southern states were no longer part of the federal compact, the Emancipation Proclamation amounted to an attempt to incite a slave revolt in another country, in spite of the proclamation’s disclaimer to the contrary. Certainly the Radicals hoped the proclamation would spark a slave revolt, regardless of the cost in human lives. American leaders reacted angrily when the British tried to incite a slave revolt in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War. This was a serious threat, since slaves were held in each of the thirteen colonies at the time. The British offered freedom to American slaves who would fight in the British army, and they encouraged slaves to sabotage the colonial war effort. Not surprisingly, tens of thousands of slaves flocked to British army encampments. Fortunately, however, not enough slaves fought for the British to turn the tide against the colonies. At the end of the war, at least 18,000 former slaves accompanied British troops as they evacuated New York, Charleston, Savannah, and other cities (Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, p. 10).

If the Emancipation Proclamation had covered all slaves, if it had included compensation for slaveholders, and if it had contained guarantees against a slave revolt, it would have been on solid moral ground. It still would have been unconstitutional, but it would have been consistent, fair, and moral. However, the proclamation contained none of these things. It was intended as a war measure. It left Northern slaves in bondage. Its real purpose was to advance the effort to subjugate the South, even if that meant causing the deaths of thousands of women and children. The Radicals and other Republicans were using Southern slaves as pawns in their effort to conquer the South.

Republicans, the North, and Racism

(NOTE: In this section it will be necessary to quote some offensive words and statements from the Civil War era. I apologize to those readers who are offended by them.)

The same Republican-controlled Congress that eventually made forceful emancipation a secondary goal of the war and that imposed oppressive Reconstruction rule on the South after the war, also sanctioned the federal government’s terrible mistreatment of the American Indians. Historian C. Vann Woodward put it this way:

The same Congress that devised Radical Reconstruction . . . approved strict segregation and inequality for the Indian of the West. (In Blum and Catton et al, editors, The National Experience, p. 416)

With the Republicans firmly in control of the federal government, the Union army began a series of brutal campaigns against the American Indians a few months after the Confederate commanding general, Robert E. Lee, surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia. Federal forces and Northern militias cheated and abused the Indians on certain occasions during the war, but the federal campaigns against the Indians that started with the Sioux War in 1865 were vicious and remain a stain on our history. Under Republican rule, the federal government ordered forced relocations, engaged in shameful treaty violations, and authorized merciless attacks in which thousands of Indians, including many women and children, were killed. Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Phil Sheridan, fresh from having ravaged the South, were responsible for many of those attacks. The general who ordered the first post-war campaign against the Indians was Ulysses S. Grant. Much of the worst mistreatment of the Indians occurred when Grant was president (1868-1876). Republicans occupied the White House for all but seven of the thirty-one years from 1861 to 1892 (three of those seven years were under Lincoln’s vice president, Andrew Johnson, and the remaining four years didn’t come until 1884-1888). The Republicans controlled Congress for the majority of that period as well, especially from 1861 to 1874. Woodward described the federal treatment of the Indians from the beginning of the Civil War until 1890:

Indian war broke out in Colorado about the time the Civil War was starting in the East. The immediate provocation was the effort of government officials to force the Arapaho and Cheyenne to abandon all claim to the area that had been granted them forever only ten years before. . . . Chief Black Kettle of the Cheyenne, after being assured of protection, was surprised and trapped by a force led by Colonel John M. Chivington on the night of November 28, 1864. Ignoring Black Kettle’s attempts to surrender, the militia shot, knifed, scalped, clubbed, and mutilated the Indians indiscriminately until the ground was literally littered with men, women, and children. . . .

Hardly had peace been restored to the Southwest in the fall of 1865 when Indian war broke out in the Northwest. The bloody Sioux War of 1865-67 was brought on by many forces, but it was triggered by the demands of minors who had invaded the Sioux country. . . .

The Chivington and Fetterman massacres, together with scores of minor battles and endless shooting scrapes, prompted the federal government to review its Indian policy in 1867. . . .

The new policy meant that the Indians were to abandon their way of life, submit to segregation in small out-of-the-way reservations on land spurned by the white man, and accept government tutelage in learning “to walk the white man’s road.” The Black Hills section of the Dakota Territory was to be set aside for the northern tribes. Poor lands in the western part of what is now Oklahoma, of which the five civilized tribes of the Southeast had just been defrauded on false charges of treason because of their Confederate sympathies, were to be divided among the plains Indians of the Southwest. . . .

But many Indians refused to renounce their way of life and enter meekly into the reservations. When they took the warparth in the summer of 1868, General Sherman unleashed his troopers and launched a decade of remorseless war against them. “I will urge General Sheridan to push his measures for the utter destruction and subjugation of all who are outside [the reservations] in a hostile attitude,” Sherman wrote. “I propose that [he] shall prosecute the war with vindictive earnestness against all hostile Indians, till they are obliterated or beg for mercy. . . .”

By the end of 1874 all seemed calm. Then in 1875, when government authorities permitted tens of thousands of gold-prospectors to crowd into the Black Hills, the outraged Sioux and other northern Indians reacted violently. . . . the Indians were compelled to surrender the following fall. . . . The Nez Perce Indians of Oregon staged a rebellion that was repressed in 1877, and the survivors of this once-proud tribe were herded into a barren preserve in Indian Territory to be ravaged by disease and hunger. The last incident of the Indian wars was the sickening “Battle” of Wounded Knee in 1890, in which United States troops mowed down two hundred Dakota men, women, and children. (In Blum and Catton et al, editors, The National Experience, pp. 416-417)

I agree with Thomas DiLorenzo’s point that the Republicans’ treatment of the Indians raises questions about their professed concern for social justice:

Before being elected president, and while still commander of the U.S. Army, Ulysses S. Grant gave General Sherman the assignment, in July of 1865, of conducting a campaign of ethnic genocide against the Plains Indians to make way for the government-subsidized railroads. “We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress of the railroads,” Sherman wrote to Grant in 1866. “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, and children.”

The eradication of the Plains Indians was yet another subsidy to the railroad industry, albeit an indirect one. Rather than paying for rights of way across Indian lands, as James J. Hill’s nonsubsidized Great Northern Railroad did, the government-subsidized Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads got the government to either kill or place on reservations every last Indian by 1890.

Sherman instructed his army that “during an assault [on an Indian village] the soldiers can not pause to distinguish between male and female, or even discriminate as to age. As long as resistance is made, death must be meted out.” As Sherman biographer John Marszalek wrote, “Sherman viewed Indians as he viewed recalcitrant Southerners during the war and newly freed people after: resisters to the legitimate forces of an orderly society.” Of course, the chaos of entire Indian villages, women and children included, being wiped out by federal artillery is hardly an “orderly” scene. . . .

Sherman and Sheridan purposely planned their raids during the winter months when they knew entire families would be together. They killed all the animals as well as the people, ensuring that any survivors would not survive for very long. . . .

The fact that the war against the Plains Indians began just three months after Lee’s surrender calls into question yet again the notion that racial injustices in the South were the primary motivation for Northerners’ willingness to wage such a long and destructive war. No political party purporting to be sensitive to racial injustice could possibly have even contemplated doing to the Indians what the United States government did to them.

Both the Southern Confederates and the Indians stood in the way of the Whig/Republican dream of a North American economic empire, complete with a subsidized transcontinental railroad, a nationalized banking system, and protectionist tariffs. Consequently, both groups were conquered and subjugated by the most violent means. (The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, Paperback Edition, New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003, pp. 220-223)

Another example of Republican hypocrisy was the Republican Party’s platform for the 1868 presidential election. Ulysses S. Grant ran for president on this platform, and won handily. The platform stated that the Southern states should be forced to allow blacks to vote but that the Northern states should be allowed to decide this issue for themselves. The Republicans took this position even though every Northern state that had voted on amendments for black voting rights in the preceding three years had soundly defeated those amendments. Republican leaders knew that racism was so widespread in the North that they would lose the election if they advocated forcing the Northern states to allow blacks to vote. Many Republicans themselves weren’t enthusiastic about voting rights for Northern blacks anyway.

If the Republicans’ primary concern had been to ensure that blacks were allowed to vote, they would have insisted on black voting rights in all regions of the country. If they had done so, at least their position would have been consistent and morally defensible. But they didn’t do this. Furthermore, subsequent events suggest that the Republicans enforced black voting rights in the South primarily to expand their political power into that region; once they achieved that power they shamelessly plundered Southern taxpayers of all races. When the Republicans felt they no longer needed to maintain their power in the South, most of them seemed to lose interest in voting rights for African Americans.

Many Republican leaders, including some of the Radicals, held racist views. Thaddeus Stevens, the leader of the Radicals in the House, not only opposed racial integration but believed blacks were less intelligent than whites and, in the words of friendly biographer Fawn Brodie, “insisted that he had never held to the doctrine of Negro equality” (Fawn Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens: Scourge of the South, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1959, p. 193; Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, p. 300). Incidentally, Stevens also believed the Constitution was “a worthless bit of old parchment” (Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 292). Another powerful Radical in the House, George Julian, lectured his fellow Republicans about their racism, saying, “The real trouble is that we hate the negro. It is not his ignorance that offends us, but his color. . . .” (Kenneth Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877, Vintage Books Edition, New York: Vintage Books, 1965, p. 102). Benjamin Wade, a leading Radical in the Senate, was overheard “railing about too many ‘nigger’ cooks in the capital” and complaining that he had eaten so many meals “cooked by Niggers” that he could “smell and taste the Nigger all over” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 53). In the 1860 election campaign, numerous Republican leaders championed their party as the true “White Man’s Party” that would keep the western territories safe for white labor (McPherson, Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982, p. 123). Lincoln’s secretary of state, William Seward, the man who claimed in 1858 that there was an “irrepressible conflict” between the free states and the slaveholding states, spoke for many Republicans when he said,

The North has nothing to do with the Negroes. I have no more concern for them than I have for the Hottentots. . . . They are not of our race. (In Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 295)

Lincoln himself held racist views. As a politician in Illinois, Lincoln voted to deny blacks the right to vote, and he supported the state’s oppressive “Black Code.” Lincoln used the N-word, even in public statements, and even as president. Lincoln referred to the Declaration of Independence as “the white man’s charter of freedom.” He also said he did not support allowing blacks to be citizens, explaining, “I am not in favor of negro citizenship” (The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 3, edited by Roy Basler, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1952-1955, p. 179). In an 1858 speech, Lincoln left no doubt about his views on race:

I will say, then, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way, the social and political equality of the white and black races; that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters of the free negroes, or jurors, or qualifying them to hold office, or having them to marry white people. I will say in addition, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which, I suppose, will forever forbid the two races living together upon terms of social and political equality, and inasmuch as they cannot so live, that while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, that I as much as any other man am in favor of the superior position being assigned to the white man. (Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858, New York: The Library of America, 1989, edited by Don Fehrenbacher, p. 751)

To be fair, it should be noted that Lincoln was by no means alone in his views. The sad truth is that in those days the vast majority of white Americans, in all parts of the country, shared Lincoln’s racial attitudes. Most whites believed that the white race was the superior race and that therefore blacks and other minorities belonged to inferior races. Nearly all textbooks give the false impression that white supremacy and racism were mainly confined to the South, but these problems were widespread in the North as well. Numerous historians have acknowledged this fact. In many cases, the “free” states weren’t very free for blacks. Historian Robert Cruden:

To understand something of the nature of that problem we must look at the position of the American Negro in the 1860s. . . . Throughout the nation there were 488,000 free Negroes. . . . Most free Negroes—258,000—lived in the South. . . .

“Free people of color” were welcome in few places. In the North they were almost universally segregated, excluded from public life, and their children barred from white public schools. In those areas where separate Negro schools were provided they were inadequately financed and instruction was poor. . . .

The situation of the black American when the war ended was ambiguous. . . . Northerners as a whole, willing to concede freedom, were hostile to equality. Many of them dreaded an incursion of black folk after the war—especially among lower paid workers who feared Negro competition and some not so poorly paid who resented possible Negro entry into their crafts. The use of Negroes as strikebreakers during the war and their employment in areas where whites were out of work resulted in agitation and riots and intensified anti-Negro feeling.

Such sentiment, however, was by no means confined to workingmen. Between 1865 and 1867 voters in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Ohio rejected proposals for Negro suffrage [the right to vote]; in 1868 only 8 out of 16 Northern states permitted Negroes to vote. Oregon even continued its pre-war prohibition against the entry of free Negroes. . . . (The Negro in Reconstruction, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969, pp. 6, 12-13)

Historian James McPherson:

The Indiana constitutional convention of 1851 adopted a provision forbidding black migration into the state. This supplemented the state’s laws barring blacks already there from voting, serving on juries or in the militia, testifying against whites in court, marrying whites, or going to school with whites. Iowa and Illinois had similar laws on the books and banned black immigration by statute in 1851 and 1853 respectively. These measures reflected the racist sentiments of most whites in those states. (Ordeal By Fire, p. 80)

African-American scholars John Franklin and Alfred Moss:

There can be no doubt that many blacks were sorely mistreated in the North and West. Observers like Fanny Kemble and Frederick L. Olmsted mentioned incidents in their writings. Kemble said of Northern blacks, “They are not slaves indeed, but they are pariahs, debarred from every fellowship save with their own despised race. . . . All hands are extended to thrust them out, all fingers point at their dusky skin, all tongues . . . have learned to turn the very name of their race into an insult and a reproach.” Olmsted seems to have believed the Louisiana black who told him that they could associate with whites more freely in the South than in the North and that he preferred to live in the South because he was less likely to be insulted there. (From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, p. 185)

Historian Joanne Pope Melish:

The emancipation of slaves in New England, beginning around 1780, was a gradual process, whether by post nati statute, as in Rhode Island and Connecticut, or by effect, as in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where ambiguous judicial decisions and constitutional interpretations discouraged slaveholding without clearly outlawing it. . . . The emancipation process took place during the post-Revolutionary period of social and economic uncertainty that interrogated the stability of social identity and the meaning of citizenship for whites as well as people of color [blacks]. . . .

Even more problematic was the promise implicit in antislavery rhetoric that abolition, by ending “the problem”—the sin of slavery and the troublesome presence of slaves—would result in the eventual absence of people of color themselves. In other words, whites anticipated that free people of color would, by some undefined moment (always imminent), have disappeared.

New England whites employed an array of strategies to effect the removal promised by antislavery rhetoric and to efface [erase] people of color and their history in New England. Some of these efforts were symbolic: representing people of color as ridiculous or dangerous “strangers” in anecdotes, cartoons, and broadsides; emphasizing slavery and “race” as “southern problems”; characterizing New England slavery as brief and mild, or even denying its having existed; inventing games and instructional problems in which the object was to make “the negroes” disappear; digging up the corpses of people of color. Other efforts aimed to eliminate the presence of living people of color: conducting official roundups and “warnings-out”; rioting in and vandalizing black neighborhoods. Finally, some efforts involved both symbolic and physical elements, such as the American Colonization Society’s campaign to demonize free people of color and raise funds to ship them to Africa. . . .

[Ralph Waldo] Emerson’s perceptive if simplistic observation about abolitionists of the 1850s applies as well to eighteenth-century antislavery activists: “The abolitionist wishes to abolish slavery, but because he wishes to abolish the black man.” Many whites had imagined that gradual emancipation would ultimately restore New England to an idealized original state as an orderly, homogeneous white society. . . .

The hardening ideology of “race”—innate, permanent difference, located within the body as part of each person’s essential nature—effectively contained and managed people of color, as had the old institution of slavery. . . .

As sectional controversy intensified, the mystique of a historically free, white New England provided a unique moral dimension to the Unionist position there, linking nineteenth-century Unionist redeemers with seventeenth-century Puritan ones. Thus, when Lewis Simpson invokes Emerson as the quintessence of the New England mind of the early nineteenth century, heir to Fisher Aimes in having discovered by 1837 the “absolute cultural contrast between the South and New England,” he locates the sources of this contrast in assumptions about a “whites-only republic of man” implicit in Emerson’s rather abstract opposition to slavery. Simpson suggests that the governing mythology of this vision may be found in Emerson’s musings that “the dark man, the black man declines. . . . It will happen by and by, that the black man will only be destined for museums like the Dodo.” But the “superior good order” of the New England nation-state had already come to be predicated upon the present and historical absence of slaves/people of color there, in contradistinction to the suffocating and historical presence of slaves in the South. Emerson’s plan for a whites-only republic assumed the existence of a whites-only New England already in place. This assumption was not confined to Emerson, or to intellectuals, but was a fundamental element of New England ideology that fueled and was fueled by a powerful sectional nationalism. . . .

But the issue of the extension of slavery racialized the question of the nature of the model society, and “what New England is now” comprised not only judgments about the superiority of small-town commerce and free labor over large-scale, slave-dependent agriculture in the present but also assumptions about the development of New England in the past as a region that was historically “white” as well as “free.” In this context, efforts to remove free people of color from New England and to efface their history of enslavement there became critically important political maneuvers. A virtual amnesia about local slavery and a kind of perpetual, indignant surprise at the continuing presence of people of color became common ingredients in the epic of preeminent New England as it was shaped in the years after 1815. . . .

The moral authority asserted by the idea of a free, white New England also served to rationalize the ambitions of many New Englanders and, ultimately, northerners—both intellectuals and entrepreneurs—to dominate the South commercially and culturally. . . . As Emerson said in support of the confiscation of southerners’ property at the end of the war, “You at once open the whole South to the enterprise and genius of new men of all nations, and extend New England from Canada to the Gulf to the Pacific.”

When radical abolitionists—advocating immediate, uncompensated emancipation—began to gain adherents in the mid-1830s, they vilified the colonizationist argument, but their own position rested on quite similar assumptions about the superiority of Yankee blood and culture. The observation of Theodore Parker, leading Boston preacher and committed abolitionist, that “the Anglo-Saxon people . . . is the best specimen of mankind which has ever attained great power in the world”—although made later, in 1857—is quite typical of the thinking prevalent among New England abolitionists.

The few abolitionists who acknowledged New England’s indigenous history of slaveholding also minimized its extent and effect. . . .

The growing enmity on the part of whites was clearly reflected in their public language; the use of the word “nigger” in particular seemed to operate as a kind of coagulate of the resentments that had been growing in white communities in tandem with the size and visibility of the population of free people of color. People of color themselves understood clearly how the term served to enact the embodiment of innate, permanent inferiority. Hosea Easton described the process in his 1837 Treatise on the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the United States:

“Negro or nigger, is . . . employed to impose contempt upon them as an inferior race, and also to express their deformity of person. Nigger lips, nigger shins, nigger heels, are phrases universally common among the juvenile class of society, and full well understood by them. . . . Children in infancy receive oral instruction from the nurse. The first lessons given are, . . . go to sleep, if you don’t the old nigger will carry you off; don’t you cry—Hark; the old nigger’s coming—how ugly you are, you are worse than a little nigger. . . . to inspire their half-grown misses and masters to improvement, they are told that if they do this or that, . . . they will be poor or ignorant as a nigger, or that they will be black as a nigger; or have no more credit than a nigger.”

In an explicit reference to the scurrilous, lampooning broadsides then circulating widely in the streets of Boston, Easton noted, “This kind of instruction is not altogether oral. Cuts and placards descriptive of the negro’s deformity, are everywhere displayed to the observation of the young, with corresponding broken lingo, the very character of which is marked with design. Many of the popular book stores, in commercial towns and cities, have their show-windows lined with them. The barrooms of the most popular public houses in the country, sometimes have their ceiling literally covered with them”. . . .

A New England identity remained somewhat appealing because for over half a century the idea of New England as a refuge of freedom had retained a stubborn hold on the imagination of people of color, despite bitter experience to the contrary. Even though, as gradual emancipation followed slavery into an ever receding past, “racial” thinking and practices in New England became increasingly oppressive, New England was free in the technical sense that the legal machinery of slavery had generally ceased to function there. . . .

But the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 stripped away even the legal convention of “freedom” and overshadowed the few formal advances, laying bare the reality of northern “racial” thinking and practices. Martin Delany spoke for a growing number of distinctly disenchanted northern people of color in 1852 when he stated baldly that the “free” states were nothing of the kind. . . .

[Frederick] Douglass, too, had abandoned all suggestions of northern “racial” progress by 1853, and asked scathingly, “What stone has been left unturned to degrade us? What hand has refused to inflame the popular prejudice against us? . . . What wit has not laughed at us in our wretchedness? . . . Few, few, very few”. . . .

What Harriet Wilson published in 1859 was a remarkably clear-eyed assessment of the racialized structure of New England life which had developed in the more than half a century following the first steps toward emancipation of New England slaves. Her blunt portrayal of the mechanics of “racial” essentialism and its reproduction in New England households dismantled the mythology of the New England “free” states and indicted the model of “fire-side culture” that was the engine of its reproduction. . . .

The engagement of New England in the Civil War can be read, as Lewis Simpson suggests, as a nationalist and culturally imperialist enterprise fueled at least in substantial part by the “racial” essentialism on the one hand and the mythology of “freedom” on the other which Wilson so shrewdly dissected.

Ultimately, of course, the Civil War ended American slavery finally and completely, but northern people of color were not thereby released from racial thinking and practices whose origins were lost in a largely suppressed history of northern slavery and gradual emancipation. . . .

Long after the war ended, the presence of people of color in New England continued to be regarded by many whites as unaccountable, a puzzling and irritating refusal of “the Negro” to follow the dodo into extinction as Emerson—echoing the implicit promises of antislavery activists in the Revolutionary period—had so confidently predicted. (Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860, Cornell Paperbacks Edition, Cornell University Press, 2000, pp. 1, 2, 164, 217-218, 220-221, 244-245, 264-265, 284-285, original emphasis)

William Klingaman:

In the first half of the nineteenth century, state legislatures in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut took away Negroes’ right to vote; and voters in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Maine, Iowa, and Wisconsin approved new constitutions that limited suffrage to whites. In Ohio, Negro males were permitted to vote only if they had "a greater visible admixture of white than colored blood”. . . .

City officials [in Washington. D.C.] restricted Negro immigrants to the malaria-ridden lowlands known as “Murder Bay” by the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, or to Negro Hill on North Tenth Street, a safe distance from the respectable parts of town. . . .

In early March [1862], Congress took up a bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia. Introduced by Senator Wilson, the measure provided payment to loyal owners of $300 per slave, provided they freed their property within ninety days. . . . At Lincoln’s request, the Senate added a rider offering steamship tickets to any freed slaves who wished to emigrate to Haiti or Liberia. . . .

Residents of Washington fought the measure with petitions and letters. Local newspapers published editorials denouncing the bill. . . .

Washington’s mayor and board of aldermen pleaded with Congress not to pass the bill. They feared it would make the capital, located between the slaveholding states of Maryland and Virginia, “an asylum for free negroes, a population undesirable in every American community, and which it has been deemed necessary to exclude altogether from some even of the non-slaveholding states”. . . . White Washingtonians aimed to keep them subservient, especially after Congress forced the repeal of the city’s black codes. In the summer of 1862, a congressional committee discovered that in the absence of slavery in the nation’s capital, white prejudice against Negroes grew stronger. Whites were quick to file complaints against Negroes, especially for theft, and gangs of white thugs attacked Negroes with increasing frequency. . . .

Passage of the Confiscation Act did not resolve the debate over emancipation in Congress. The bill itself freed no slaves. . . . At the same time, however, prejudice against Negroes was rising among white northerners. Some whites blamed Negroes for causing the war. . . . Other whites, particularly Irish immigrants living in Northern cities, feared that freed slaves might migrate north and compete with them as a source of cheap labor.

“There is but one thing, sir, that we want here,” announced an Ohioan to a visiting journalist, “and that is to get rid of the niggers.” A lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society reported that denunciations of Negroes “were never more common in my hearing. Many Republicans unite with Democrats in cursing the ‘niggers,’ and in declaring that the slaves, if possibly emancipated by the war, must be removed from the country”. . . .

When several state governments found it necessary to institute conscription in the summer of 1862, anti-Negro riots broke out among . . . communities in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio, where protestors insisted that “we won’t fight to free the nigger.” Before the summer ended, more violent demonstrations against Negroes erupted in Cincinnati and New York. . . .

Midwestern opponents of the proclamation [the Emancipation Proclamation] raised the specter of several million free Negroes fleeing Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana for Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Anti-Negro feeling in the region was on the rise; only a few months earlier, the Ohio state legislature had defeated by only two votes a measure to remove all Negroes already residing in the state. . . . Mass meetings in the Midwest protesting emancipation and the war degenerated into violence. Race riots erupted in Detroit when whites attacked Negroes, killing several and burning dozens of homes. . . .

In the summer of 1863, New York City was primed for an explosion. . . . On the stifling hot, muggy morning of July 13, a band of Irish toughs attacked the Ninth District draft office, smashing furniture and setting the building ablaze. . . . The movement quickly spread throughout the city’s working-class sections in the Upper East Side. . . . Rioters cut down telegraph poles to sever police communications, tore up railroad tracks, attacked the police and provost marshal’s guard on the streets. . . . They attacked the homes of abolitionists and assaulted every Negro in sight, invading Negroes’ houses and pulling them off steamboats and streetcars to savagely beat them or hang them from lampposts. An English visitor witnessed whites chasing a Negro down an avenue, shouting “Kill the black son of a bitch!” and “Kill all niggers!” Employers were warned “not to put any niggers to work.”

Late in the afternoon, a mob set fire to the Colored Orphan Asylum at Fifth Avenue and Forty-Third Street. Fortunately, most of the children had escaped moments earlier. When firemen attempted to put out the blaze, the rioters destroyed the hydrants. . . .

Racial prejudice grew stronger in the riot’s aftermath. Fearful of renewed trouble, employers refused to hire Negroes; New Yorkers who befriended Negroes found themselves threatened by white laborers. Eventually one-third of the city’s black population left to seek better opportunities elsewhere. (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 54, 91, 117-118, 132, 164-165, 246-247, 262-264)

When it came to the issue of using blacks as soldiers in the Union army, most Northern whites either opposed the measure or favored it primarily because they wanted to save the lives of as many white soldiers as possible. Klingaman:

“Certainly we hope we may never have to confess to the world that the United States government has to seek an ally in the negro to regain its authority,” declared an editorial in the Milwaukee Sentinel. “We don’t want to fight alongside with the nigger,” agreed a recruit from New York. “We think we are a too superior race for that”. . . .

Vice President Hamlin probably reflected northerners’ opinion . . . when he told a rally in Bangor [Maine] in July that “we want to save, as much as possible, our men, even if it is done by men a little blacker than myself.” Governor Samuel Kirkwood of Iowa put the matter more baldly when he voiced a desire to see “some dead niggers as well as dead white men.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, pp. 160-161)

Several Northern states rejected the Fifteenth Amendment, which was designed to guarantee voting rights for African Americans and other minorities. The amendment was submitted to the states for ratification in February 1869. The Northern states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and Oregon rejected it. So did California and Kentucky, both of which had sided with the Union during the war. New York ratified the amendment but then quickly renounced its ratification. All but two of these states waited decades before finally approving the amendment. (Ohio and New Jersey initially rejected the amendment but then ratified it a year or two later, in 1870 and 1871 respectively.)

Was the War Fought Over Slavery?

The war was fought over Southern independence, not over slavery. Lincoln said repeatedly the war was not being fought over slavery. In August 1862, over a year after the war started, Lincoln wrote an open letter to a prominent Republican abolitionist, Horace Greeley, in which he said he did not agree with those who would only “save” the Union if they could destroy slavery at the same time. Lincoln added that if he could “save” the Union without freeing a single slave, he would do so. Said Lincoln,

If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them.

My paramount objective is to save the Union and not either to save or destroy slavery.

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it. 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. (Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862, published in the New York Tribune)

In July 1861, after the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) had been fought, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution, by an overwhelming majority, that declared the war was not being fought to disturb slavery, nor to subjugate the South, but only to “maintain the Union” (i.e., to force the Southern states back into the Union). A few months later, in September, a group of Radicals visited Lincoln to urge him to make compulsory emancipation a war objective. Lincoln declined, telling the Radicals, “We didn’t go into the war to put down slavery, but to put the flag back” (Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 155; Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, pp. 75-76). Later on, about halfway through the war, the Radicals and other Republicans succeeded in making the uncompensated abolition of Southern slavery a secondary goal of the war. However, the primary purpose of the federal invasion was always to destroy Southern independence.

The war itself really had nothing directly to do with slavery. It’s true that issues involving slavery were the most important factors behind the first wave of secession, but secession and the war were two separate events, and four of the Southern states did not secede over slavery. As noted earlier, secession was a peaceful, democratic process. The seceded states posed no threat to the federal government, and they had no intention of trying to overthrow the government. The Confederate states wanted to live in peace with the North and offered to pay their share of the national debt and to pay compensation for all federal forts in the South. If Lincoln had not decided to use force to compel the South to rejoin the Union, there would have been no war. If Republican leaders and their financial backers had welcomed Confederate efforts to establish peaceful relations, there would have been no war.

Some will make the argument that had it not been for slavery there would have been no war and that therefore slavery caused the war or that the war was fought over slavery. This is not a logical argument. It’s probably true that there would have been no war if there had been no slavery, although this is not certain. After all, South Carolina and the federal government nearly went to war over the federal tariff in 1832-1833. However, even if there would have been no war if slavery had not existed, this does not mean the war was fought over slavery or that slavery caused the war. Slavery was one of several factors that led to the war, but the cause of the conflict was Lincoln’s refusal to allow the South to leave in peace. The role that slavery played as a factor that led to the war was similar to the role that oil played as a factor that led to the first Gulf War in 1991. If there had been no Kuwaiti oil fields, Iraq would not have invaded Kuwait and the first Gulf War would not have been fought. But, no credible analyst would suggest that therefore that war was “fought over oil” or that oil “caused” the war. The first Gulf War was fought because Iraq invaded Kuwait. America and her allies fought the war in order to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. The Kuwaitis who fought in the war were fighting first and foremost to repel an invader and to preserve their independence, not to protect their oil fields.

If the Southern states had not seceded, there would have been no war and slavery would have continued. If the Southern states had surrendered when Lincoln issued his call-up for an invasion force, there would have been no war and slavery would have continued. If Jefferson Davis’s first announcement as Confederate president had been that the Confederacy was going to abolish slavery, Lincoln and the Radicals still would have invaded the South. If the Confederacy had informed Lincoln at any point during the war that it was going to start an emancipation program, Lincoln would not have suddenly called off the federal invasion. The issue was Southern independence, not slavery.

The reaction of the Northern abolitionists to the proposal of fellow abolitionist Moncure Conway is further proof the war was not fought over slavery. At least a few of the abolitionists were Republicans, and nearly all of them strongly supported the Radicals. Conway, on the other hand, was a pacifist. Yet, at first Conway reluctantly supported the invasion of the South. “But,” notes Jeffrey Hummel, “the increasing bloodshed sickened him.” So, when Conway was in England in 1863, he proposed to a Confederate envoy that if the South freed the slaves the abolitionists would oppose the war. Conway also said he would support the continuation of the Confederacy as long as the Confederacy abolished slavery. Strangely enough, leading abolitionists had selected Conway to go to England in order to convince the British that the war was being fought to free the slaves. However, when Conway’s proposal for Southern independence coupled with abolition was published, most abolitionists reacted with outrage and withdrew their support from him. Obviously, their main goal was to crush the South, even if the South freed its slaves. Notes Hummel,

The cries of protest on this side of the Atlantic that greeted the proposal’s publication made clear that most abolitionists now wanted to subdue and punish the South, slavery or no. (Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, p. 206)

As one reads the speeches and letters of Confederate leaders during the war, it becomes apparent that they certainly didn’t believe their main reason for fighting was to preserve slavery. For example, beginning in late 1862, James Phelan, Joseph Bradford, and Reuben Davis wrote to Jefferson Davis to express concern that some opponents were claiming the war "was for the defense of the institution of slavery" (Cooper, Jefferson Davis, American, pp. 479-480, 765). They called those who were making this claim "demagogues." Cooper notes that when two Northerners visited Jefferson Davis during the war, Davis insisted "the Confederates were not battling for slavery" and that "slavery had never been the key issue" (Jefferson Davis, American, p. 524). McPherson notes that Jefferson Davis repeatedly said the South was fighting for its independence and that the Southern states merely wanted to be left alone:

Jefferson Davis said repeatedly that the South was fighting for the same “sacred right of self-government” that the revolutionary fathers had fought for. In his first message to Congress [the Confederate Congress] after the fall of Sumter, Davis proclaimed that the Confederacy would “seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone.” (The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 310)

To most Southerners, independence was more important than the continuation of slavery. This is not surprising, since less than 10 percent of Southern citizens actually held title to slaves, and since 69-75 percent of Southern families did not own slaves (John Niven, The Coming of the Civil War: 1837-1861, Arlington Heights, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1990, p. 34; Divine et al, editors, America Past and Present, p. 389; see also the 1860 Census). Early in the war, James Alcorn, a powerful planter-politician from Mississippi, began to talk openly about emancipation. Duncan Kenner, one of the most powerful slaveholders in the South and a chairman in the Confederate Congress, urged that slavery be abolished. Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s most famous general, believed slavery was evil and favored gradual emancipation. The Confederate secretary of state, Judah Benjamin, and Governor William Smith of Virginia, also supported ending slavery. By late 1864, Jefferson Davis himself was prepared to abolish slavery in order to gain European diplomatic recognition and thus save the Confederacy, which shows that independence was more important to him than preserving slavery. Hummel, though critical of the South on many points, observes the following:

Jefferson Davis summarily rejected Lincoln’s demands [for the dissolution of the Confederacy], yet he might have given in on southern emancipation in return for Southern independence. His countrymen were already debating the revolutionary expedient of arming slaves to fight for the Confederacy, even though they knew that this meant an end to their peculiar institution [slavery]. As early as August 1863, an editorial in the Jackson Mississippian declared that slavery should not be “a barrier to our independence. If it is found in the way—if it proves an insurmountable object of the achievement of our liberty and separate nationality, away with it! Let it perish!” This was a drastic step, but “we must make up our minds to one solemn duty, the first duty of the patriot, and that is to save ourselves from the rapacious North, whatever the cost.”

General Lee added his prestige to the proposal: “We must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of the effects which may be produced upon our social institutions,” he warned. “My own opinion is that we should employ them without delay. . . . The best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity of this auxiliary force would be to accompany the measure with a well-digested plan of gradual and general emancipation.” In March of 1865, the Confederate Congress narrowly authorized the recruitment of 300,000 slaves, while the Davis Administration promised full emancipation to the British and French governments in exchange for diplomatic recognition. (Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, pp. 280-281)

A Confederate soldier who was captured early in the war expressed the South’s reason for fighting in simple yet eloquent terms. He wore a ragged homemade uniform, and like most other Southerners he didn’t own any slaves. When his Union captors asked him why he was fighting for the Confederacy, he replied, “I’m fighting because you’re down here” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 311, emphasis added).

What Happened at Andersonville Prison?

The question that really should be asked is, Why did thousands of Confederate prisoners die of starvation, disease, and exposure in Northern prison camps when the Union army could have easily given them adequate food, housing, and medical care?

Yes, thousands of Union prisoners died of starvation, disease, and exposure at the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, but that was because the Confederacy simply didn’t have enough food, medicine, and facilities to care for them. During this same period, tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers were going hungry on a regular basis and lacked adequate medical supplies–because of the Union naval blockade and because of the inhumane destruction that Union armies were inflicting on the South. Confederate authorities tried to obtain medical supplies for the Union prisoners at Andersonville, but Lincoln refused to sell them, even though the Confederates offered to allow Union doctors to accompany the supplies to ensure they were used for Union prisoners. After the war, even some Union officers placed the blame for Andersonville squarely on Lincoln and on Ulysses S. Grant, not on the Confederacy.

One of the most balanced and objective treatments of the issue of Andersonville can be found in J. G. Randall and David Donald’s highly acclaimed book The Civil War and Reconstruction. No one would argue that Randall and Donald were pro-Confederate historians—in fact, they were decidedly pro-Union in their outlook. However, on most issues they were fair and objective, and one of those issues was the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville. Among other things, Randall and Donald said,

The Andersonville prison, until the soldiers built huts for themselves, was but a stockaded enclosure of sixteen and a half acres in southwestern Georgia. Mosquito-infested tents; myriads of maggots; pollution and filth due to lack of sanitation; soldiers dying by thousands; men desperately attempting to tunnel their way to freedom; prison mates turning on their fellows whom they suspected of treachery or theft; unbaked rations; inadequate hospital facilities; escaping men hunted down by bloodhounds—such are the details that come down to us from incontrovertible sources. The causes of such conditions are to be found in the sheer inability of officers in charge to cope with the immense number of prisoners pouring in on them before preparations could be made to receive them, the insurmountable difficulties in obtaining supplies and equipment, and the poverty of the Confederacy in material resources. Union prisoners at Andersonville were in no worse case than many of the soldiers of Lee’s army; and it should be remembered that “the prisoners received the same rations as the soldiers who were guarding them” [quoting pro-Northern historian James F. Rhodes]. . . .

The sickening story of Andersonville, however, is not to be set down, in the manner of lurid prison literature, as a chapter in Confederate cruelty; it is the tragedy of an impossible situation forced by the barbarity of war. . . . As Dr. Hesseltine points out, the harrowing personal memoirs of prisoners, which generally follow a set pattern, are to be taken cum grano salis; and the careful student will tend to agree with him in rejecting the legend of willful Southern atrocities. (The Civil War and Reconstruction, pp. 336-337)

Much could be said about the thousands of Confederate prisoners who died in Union prison camps and about the horrible conditions in many of those camps. The Union had no excuse for not adequately caring for its Confederate prisoners. Unlike the Confederacy, which was literally starving and was being invaded and blockaded, the Union had more than enough food, medicine, and equipment. There was no reason that a single Confederate prisoner should have died of starvation or exposure. Even Kenneth Davis, who is very critical of the Confederacy on nearly all issues, admits that thousands of Confederate prisoners were deliberately mistreated by the Union army:

The worst Union prison was in Elmira, in upstate New York, where 2,963 Confederate soldiers died, nearly a quarter of the 12,123 men held there. This death rate was only slightly less than Andersonville’s and more than double the average death rate in the other Union prison camps. Built in May 1864, after prisoner exchanges were halted, the camp was designed to hold 5,000 men. The deaths at Elmira were caused by diseases brought on by starvation and terrible living conditions. During a bitterly cold winter, clothes sent by families for the prisoners were deliberately withheld, and hundreds of men, forced to live in tents with no blankets, froze to death. In May 1864 War Secretary [Edwin] Stanton ordered prisoner rations reduced to the same amount issued to Confederate soldiers. This supposedly ensured that Confederate prisoners were receiving the equivalent of the rations Union prisoners were getting. In other words, in the midst of plenty in the Union, malnourished Confederate prisoners suffered epidemics of scurvy, diarrhea, pneumonia, and smallpox. (Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, p. 354)

Stanton knew full well that most Confederate soldiers in the field were receiving very sparse rations and that in some cases were going without food for days at a time. He had to know it was grossly unfair and inhumane to reduce Confederate prisoner rations to the same amount that Confederate soldiers were receiving. The deliberately cruel manner in which Stanton and the Union army treated thousands of Confederate prisoners is one of the most undertold stories of the Civil War.

The tragedy at Andersonville never would have happened if the Union had not halted prisoner exchanges in 1863. For all intents and purposes, the exchanges stopped in 1863—they were formally halted in the spring of 1864 by Ulysses S. Grant. Confederate authorities continued to make offers for prisoner exchanges. Lincoln and Grant claimed they refused these offers because at the time the Confederates would not include black Union prisoners in the exchanges. I suspect the real reason for Lincoln and Grant’s refusal was that they wanted to deprive the Confederate army of manpower, even though they knew the Confederacy was in no position to properly care for the thousands of Union prisoners in its prison camps. In fact, in August 1864 Grant said exchanging prisoners would help the Confederacy more than the Union, adding, "We have to fight until the military power of the South is exhausted. . . .” In other words, Grant was willing to allow Union prisoners to continue to suffer and die in order to defeat the Confederacy. McPherson denies this was the real reason behind the suspension of exchanges; he notes that Grant made these comments "more than a year after the exchange cartel had broken down over the Negro prisoner question" (The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 800). However, one can also argue that Grant was expressing his real motive for opposing the resumption of exchanges, regardless of when he made the statement.

I find it somewhat hard to believe that men like Lincoln and Grant refused to resume prisoner exchanges because of the Confederate policy on black Union prisoners. Grant bombed the civilian population of Vicksburg, Mississippi, for weeks, forcing them to live underground in man-made caves and to eat dogs, rats, and mules. He also sanctioned vicious, genocidal attacks on the American Indians after the war. Lincoln doggedly opposed using blacks as soldiers until Union casualties began to mount and the Radicals forced his hand. When Lincoln was finally forced to use blacks as soldiers after signing the Emancipation Proclamation, he refused to give them the same pay as white soldiers, until Congress compelled him to do so. Lincoln’s concern for black troops was nowhere to be seen when he declined to halt the shameful execution of a black soldier named William Walker, who had been convicted of “mutiny” for protesting the unequal-pay policy. Bennett notes that although Lincoln repeatedly pardoned white soldiers who had been sentenced to death, he refused to pardon Walker:

Still more unmistakable evidence of Lincoln’s orientation can be found in his failure to provide equal pay and equal protection for Black soldiers. . . . Before Congress rectified Lincoln’s error, a brave Black sergeant named William Walker, who participated in a protest against Lincoln’s policy, was arrested and charged with mutiny. At his trial, he pleaded in extenuation that “nearly the whole of his regiment acted in like manner as himself,” that “when the Regiment stacked arms and refused further duty. . . . I did not exercise any command over them” and that “I carried my arms and equipment back with me to my company street.”

Ignoring this testimony and pleas from major leaders, including some Union officers, a military court sentenced Sergeant Walker to death. Although Lincoln repeatedly overruled death sentences of White soldiers, he looked the other way when, on February 29, 1864, at 9 o’clock in the morning, Sergeant William Walker . . . was “shot to death with musketry” in the presence of his brigade. . . . A biting footnote was added by Massachusetts Governor Andrew, who said that “the Lincoln administration which found no law to pay Walker except as a nondescript or contraband, nevertheless found law enough to shoot him as a soldier.” (Forced Into Glory, p. 543)

Why did the Confederacy initially decline to include black Union prisoners in prisoner exchanges? Confederate leaders considered the Union army’s use of former Southern slaves as a federally sanctioned slave revolt. From their viewpoint, since those slaves had either been stolen or had run away, they had no right to be soldiers in the federal forces that were invading the South. I can certainly sympathize with those runaway slaves who joined the Union army in the hope of securing freedom and equality for their race. But I can also understand why the Confederates felt the way they did on the matter. The American colonists resented the British army’s use of their runaway slaves as soldiers. The Union’s employment of Southern slaves as soldiers was in effect a federally backed slave insurrection. Slavery was still legal in the four Union slave states, as it was in the South. Yet, Union armies didn’t invade and devastate the Northern slave states, only the Southern states.

It’s true that when the Confederacy offered to include black prisoners in the exchanges, Lincoln and Grant accepted the offer. But this didn’t occur until January 1865, when it was virtually certain the Union was going to win the war and win it soon. It would have been interesting to see what Lincoln and Grant’s response would have been if the Confederacy had made this offer several months earlier.

After the war, Lincoln’s assistant secretary of war, Charles Dana, blamed Grant for the breakdown in prisoner exchanges, saying "the evidence proves that it was not the Confederates who insisted on keeping our prisoners in distress, want and disease, but the commander of our armies" (in Lynn Tyler, A Confederate Catechism, Dahlonega, Georgia: Crown Rights Book Company, 2000, reprint, p. 36, quoting from "Treatment of Prisoners During the War Between the States," Southern Historical Papers, Vol. 1, pp. 112-327). Dana told the New York Sun that “the fact is unquestionable that while the Confederates desired to exchange prisoners, to send our men home, and to get back their own men, General Grant steadily and strenuously resisted such an exchange” (in Mildred Rutherford, Truths of History, Dahlonega, Georgia: Crown Rights Book Company, reprint of original 1920 edition, p. 21).

Did the South Control the Federal Government Until 1860?

The claim is frequently made that the South controlled the federal government until the 1860 election, and that therefore the South showed a lack of tolerance and fairness when it seceded in response to Lincoln’s victory. However, anyone who is familiar with American history knows that the South did not control the federal government until 1860. Many Northern politicians and writers trumpeted this myth for political and propaganda purposes. A major component of this myth was that the alleged “Slave Power” in the South was behind the South’s supposed domination of the federal government. Some Northern leaders even claimed there was a “Slave Power conspiracy” to impose slavery on the entire country. When the war ended, Radical Republicans issued dire warnings about the need to crush this supposed “Slave Power” in order to justify their subjugation and looting of the defeated South.

For one thing, wealthy Southern plantation owners, i.e., the men who allegedly comprised the supposed “Slave Power,” did not dictate Southern politics. Moreover, they were by no means uniform in their political beliefs. In fact, many affluent planters were Whigs (Frank Owsley, Plain Folk of the Old South, LSU Press Edition, LSU Press, 1982, pp. 141-142; Arthur Schlesinger, The Age of Jackson, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1945, p. 453; McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 242). And, as mentioned earlier, some of the wealthiest slaveholders opposed secession. In Georgia, for example, many counties with heavy concentrations of Whig slaveholders voted against secession (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 242). Randall and Donald pointed out that the plantation aristocracy did not control the South’s political destinies:

Nor is it to be inferred that a plantation “aristocracy” somehow controlled the political destinies of the region, for the current of democracy had eroded the powers of the gentry until “whatever influence the planters exercised over the political action of the common people was of a personal and local nature” [quoting Owsley, Plain Folk of the Old South, p. 139]. (The Civil War and Reconstruction, pp. 40-41)

Even in the very conservative Deep South state of Mississippi, plantation aristocrats did not dictate political affairs. In discussing Mississippi politics and Jefferson Davis’s political campaigns in that state, Cooper notes the following:

White manhood suffrage had existed since 1832, and the sovereign voters required wooing and intermingling from their prospective officeholders. . . .

This was emphatically not a political world in which rich planters controlled candidates and elections while sipping sherry and juleps in elegant drawing rooms. Energetic campaigning antedated Davis’s entry into the arena and did not diminish during his time as a participant. From 1844 until 1860, Davis participated fully and willingly in the demanding ordeal set up by Mississippi voters for those who wanted their allegiance. (Jefferson Davis, American, p. 106)

Historian Francis Butler Simkins called attention to the democratic reforms that the South began to adopt in the early 1800s:

Facts prove that the states of the Old South, through a series of progressive reforms, conformed to the contemporary definition of democracy as “an equal division of political rights, not of property.” They cast aside the Colonial heritage of suffrage restrictions, property qualifications for officeholding, and unequal apportionment of legislative representation. Kentucky, Maryland, and South Carolina established universal white manhood suffrage by 1810. Popular dissatisfaction with aristocratic privilege caused six Southern states in the 1830s to hold constitutional conventions dedicated to democratic reform. Consequently, property qualifications for voting were abolished in all Southern states except Virginia, North Carolina, and Louisiana, and for officeholding in all except South Carolina and Louisiana. Progress was also made in the reapportionment of legislative representation to give a more accurate proportion of the seats in the interior counties. In the 1850s constitutional reforms in seven states abolished almost all the remaining aristocratic privileges except in South Carolina. Until after the Civil War that state continued to have governors and Presidential electors chosen by the legislature, and to apportion legislative representation through a combination of property and white population.

These restrictions, however, were not more comprehensive than those prevailing in Massachusetts until 1853 and in Rhode Island until 1888. (A History of the South, pp. 108-109)

If the South truly “controlled” the federal government until 1860, one can only wonder why the federal tariff was never as low as the South wanted it to be, why Congress gave the Northern states a legal monopoly in the lucrative shipbuilding business and why this monopoly was never repealed, why it took ten years for Texas to be admitted as a state, why Cuba was never annexed, how the Missouri Compromise became law in 1820, how the Tariff of Abominations passed Congress in 1828, how the Force Bill passed Congress in 1833, how the tariff act of 1842 passed Congress, how the John Calhoun resolutions of 1847-1848 were all defeated, how the Wilmot Proviso passed the House of Representatives twice, how the Compromise of 1850 was enacted, why Kansas wasn’t admitted as a slave state, why the Missouri Compromise line wasn’t extended to the west coast, and how the draconian Morrill Tariff passed the House in 1860. (Some critics claim that Southern congressmen supported the 1828 Tariff of Abominations, but in point of fact most Southern congressmen voted against it [Taussig, The Tariff History of the United States, pp. 61-62].)

It’s true that there were periods when the South had more influence on federal policy than did the North, but there were also periods when this was not the case. At no time did the South “control” the federal government. Cooper notes that “after mid-1854 no chance remained for a congressional majority on any initiative marked as a southern measure” (Jefferson Davis, American, p. 284). The South was usually able to block or modify unwanted bills in the Senate, but not always, and the South was frequently unable to defeat unwanted bills in the House. As early as 1819 “the North had built up a decisive majority in the House of Representatives” (Divine et al, editors, America Past and Present, p. 281). Historian John Niven notes that the South continued to lose ground in the House from 1830 to 1840:

The House of Representatives, whose membership was based on the census returns for each state, reflected this growing disparity [between the populations of the North and the South]. Even counting three-fifths of the slave population (as the federal Constitution provided), free states increased their majority from twenty-three seats in 1830 to twenty-nine seats in 1840. The disparity expressed in total seats was 149 representatives from the free states to 88 from the slave states. (The Coming of the Civil War, p. 21)

As for the presidency, Presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, William Harrison, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan were all Northern politicians. And who were the Southern presidents? They were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor. So the South by no means enjoyed exclusive control of the White House prior to the war. Furthermore, the “Southern” presidents didn’t automatically take the South’s side on all issues, just as the “Northern” presidents didn’t automatically take the North’s side on all issues. For example, President Taylor sided with Northern politicians on crucial aspects of the Compromise of 1850 and also supported the Wilmot Proviso, even though he himself was a slaveholder.

When the South did exercise considerable influence on federal policy, it used that influence in efforts to reduce taxes, to limit the growth of the federal government, to curb or eliminate harmful protectionist trade policies, to impose fiscal responsibility on federal spending, to abolish the corrupt United States Bank, to preserve our free banking system, to prohibit the use of tax dollars for wasteful corporate welfare schemes, to expand the land area of the United States by acquiring new territory, to preserve the sovereignty of the states, and to enforce a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Under Southern leadership, Texas was finally admitted to the Union and the gigantic land area of the Mexican Cession became American territory. And if Southern leaders had been able to persuade the federal government to acquire Cuba, that beautiful island would have become an American state, there would have been no Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Cuban people wouldn’t be suffering under Fidel Castro’s oppressive Marxist regime (which has been in power for over forty years now).

I’m not saying that Southern politicians did no wrong. For example, the Southern-inspired 1836-1844 gag rule in the House of Representatives, which prevented debate on petitions to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, was unfortunate, though many Northern congressmen supported the rule as well. The largely Southern-backed Lecompton Constitution for Kansas was admittedly unfair, and fortunately the people of Kansas were eventually able to vote it down. But such cases were the exception, not the rule. Most of the time Southern politicians used their influence to pursue good, sound policies that benefited all citizens.

All Americans should be grateful that most Northern politicians did not get their way during crucial times in the decades leading up to the Civil War. If the Northern Federalists, followed by the Northern Whigs, had been in control of the government during certain key periods before the war, America would be a much smaller country today, and probably a poorer and weaker one. How would things have been different if the Northern Whigs had had their way? Texas would not have become a state. The Mexican War would not have been fought (Northern abolitionists viewed the war as another act of the “Slave Power,” and the Massachusetts legislature declared the war was being fought with “the triple object of extending slavery, of strengthening the slave power, and of obtaining the control of the free states”). If the Mexican War had not been waged, the massive land area of the Mexican Cession, which now includes Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah, would have remained part of Mexico. With regard to domestic policy, if the Northern Whigs had had their way, the tariff would have been even higher than it was, the federal government would have grown significantly, federal spending would have increased markedly, corporate welfare would have exploded, and our system of free banking would have been destroyed much sooner (the Republicans destroyed it during the Civil War).

If the Federalist-dominated New England states had had their way, the War of 1812 with Britain may have had a different outcome. The New England states refused to help with the war effort and actually aided the British:

New Englanders refused to cooperate with the war effort. . . . New Englanders carried on a lucrative, though illegal, commerce with the enemy. When the U.S. Treasury appealed for loans to finance the war, wealthy northern merchants failed to respond. (Divine et al, editors, America Past and Present, p. 254)

Historian Kenneth Stampp:

New England Federalists throughout the war regarded the . . . politicians in Washington, not the British, as their mortal enemies. And, having regained political control of all the New England states, they were in a position to translate their angry polemics into defiant deeds.

Federalist governors contested federal calls on the state militias. . . . Federalists discouraged voluntary enlistments. . . . Federalists resisted tax measures and boycotted government loans. . . . Meanwhile, New Englanders defiantly continued to trade with Canada and even furnished supplies to the British fleet. (In Blum and Catton et al, editors, The National Experience, pp. 185-186)

When the Northern Federalists gained control of the federal government in 1796, they tried to use their newly found power to silence political opponents. In 1798 they passed the infamous Sedition Act, which made it illegal to “falsely” criticize a federal official:

The Federalists did not rely solely on the army to crush political dissent. During the summer of 1798, the party’s majority in Congress passed a group of bills known collectively as the Alien and Sedition Acts. This legislation authorized the use of federal courts and the powers of the presidency to silence [political opponents]. . . . The acts were born of fear and vindictiveness, and in their efforts to punish the followers of Jefferson, the Federalists created the nation’s first major crisis over civil liberties. . . .

The Sedition Law struck at the heart of free political exchange. It defined criticism of the U.S. government as criminal libel. (Divine et al, editors, America Past and Present, pp. 223-224)

Historian Edmund Morgan wrote that the Sedition Act “was one of the most repressive measures ever directed against political activity in the United States” (in Blum and Catton et al, editors, The National Experience, p. 162). Legal scholar John Remington Graham observes that the Sedition Act “broadly criminalized libel against public officers of the United States, and was vindictively enforced by the party in power against the party out of power” (A Constitutional History of Secession, Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, 2002, p. 110). Graham continues,

As if freedom of the press had not become part of constitutional heritage in the United States, Congressman Matthew Lyon of Vermont was convicted under the Sedition Act for writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper under the loaded jury instructions of an outraged Federal judge. Lyons was reelected to Congress as he sat in prison. There were many such abuses. (A Constitutional History of Secession, p. 110)

Founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and James Madison rightly viewed the Sedition Act as a dangerous step toward a police state. In response to this threat to free speech and liberty, Jefferson authored the Kentucky Resolutions, while Madison authored the Virginia Resolution, and their respective state legislatures approved them. The resolutions declared that the states had the right, even the duty, to protect their citizens against dangerous and unconstitutional federal abuses, such as the Sedition Act, and that ultimately it was up to the states to determine the legality of federal law if all other checks and balances failed. All of the Northern states rejected these resolutions, even as patriotic citizens were being unjustly jailed under the Sedition Act. A strong majority of Americans, however, decided the Federalists had gone too far and swept them out of power two years later in the next election: The Federalists lost the presidency and lost control of both chambers of Congress in the 1800 election. Walter Brian Cisco discusses the Northern states’ reaction to the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions:

In the summer of 1798 a Federalist Congress passed, and President Adams signed, a series of acts designed to strengthen the government’s hand and to silence domestic critics. . . . The most controversial measure was the Sedition Act. . . . For a period of two years it was declared unlawful for anyone to “write, print, utter, or publish” anything “false, scandalous and malicious” against those in federal office. It was further declared seditious to bring Congress or the president “into contempt or disrepute” or to “excite against them . . . the hatred of the good people of the United States.” Less than seven years after the adoption of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights a Federalist majority had cast aside the free speech protections of the First Amendment. . . .

Dominated by Federalist legislators, all of the Northern states denounced the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions. States may not determine the constitutionality of federal laws, replied New Hampshire—only the federal judiciary has that prerogative. For a state to stand in the way of federal authority might cause “civil discord,” claimed Rhode Island, resulting in “many evil and fatal consequences.” Vermont, having entered the Union as the fourteenth state after years as an independent republic, ventured the opinion that, “The people of the United States formed the federal constitution, and not the states.” Madison expressed astonishment at such reasoning. . . . Kentucky legislators answered their critics by passing another resolution. In it they declared that to allow the federal government to determine the extent of its own powers, through the federal judiciary or elsewhere, would lead to “despotism.” Should federal authorities trample on the Constitution, the “rightful remedy” was “nullification” of the offending act by state intervention. . . .

In a 1799 letter to Madison, Jefferson went so far as to speak of the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions as a defense of the ultimate power “to sever ourselves from . . . the Union . . . rather than give up the rights of self-government.” (Taking A Stand, pp. 16, 18)

Historian Frank Owsley pointed out that Jefferson and other early American leaders invoked the principle of states rights in response to the troubling abuses that occurred as a result of the Sedition Act:

Under the Sedition Act men had been prosecuted for criticizing the President or members of Congress or judges and had been sent to prison in violation of the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. Opinion had been suppressed, meetings broken up, arbitrary arrests made, men held without trial, in fact, the whole body of personal liberties had been brushed aside by the Federalist or centralizing party. . . . Jefferson and Madison, supported by the state-rights apostle of Virginia, John Taylor of Caroline, and . . . John Randolph, proclaimed that the federal government had thus shown itself to be an unsafe protector of liberty. So Jefferson announced in his inaugural . . . that the states were the safest guardians of human liberty and called on all to support “the state governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwark against anti-republican tendencies.” The founder of the party of the agrarian South and West upheld state rights as the safest guardian of the liberties and the domestic interests of the people. (“The Irrepressible Conflict,” in Edwin Rozwenc, editor, The Causes of the American Civil War, Second Edition, Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1972, p. 119)

When Northern Federalists sought to block the admission of Missouri as a state unless it abolished slavery, Jefferson suspected that their real motive was power and not a concern about slavery itself:

Six years later the territorial legislature of Missouri asked for admission. The House of Representatives in Washington approved, but attached an amendment requiring that Missouri phase out slavery after statehood. The Senate balked at such a stipulation. . . . Jefferson saw Northern sectionalism conspiring to keep additional Southern states out of the Union. The question of slavery carried with it, according to the former president, “just enough semblance of morality to throw dust into the eyes of the people, and to fanaticize them; while with the knowing ones it is simply a question of power.” (Cisco, Taking A Stand, p. 59)

In a letter to William Pinckney, Jefferson said,

The Missouri question is a mere party trick. The leaders of Federalism, defeated in their schemes of obtaining power by rallying partisans to the principle of monarchism . . . have changed their tack and thrown out another barrel to the whale. They are taking advantage of the virtuous feelings of the people to effect a division of parties by a geographical line. They expect that this will ensure them, on local principles, the majority that they could never obtain on principles of Federalism. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to William Pinckney, September 20, 1820, in Robert Catlett Cave, The Men In Gray, Crawfordville, Georgia: Ruffin Flag Company, 1997, reprint of original edition, p. 134)

The battle over Missouri and the Missouri Compromise brings us to the charge that the South was trying to impose slavery on the western territories. Confusion and misrepresentation abound on this issue.

The Missouri Compromise, passed in 1820, limited the extension of slavery to a small section of the territories of the Louisiana Purchase. The compromise prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Purchase north of the southern border of Missouri, or above the latitude of 36030′, while allowing it below that line and in Missouri itself. This meant that roughly 65 percent of the area of the Louisiana Purchase was off-limits to slaveholders who wanted to travel or settle there with their slaves. When the United States acquired an even larger area of western territory as a result of the Mexican Cession, slavery was still barred from roughly 65-70 percent of the territories. If a slaveholder traveled with his slave through any part of the territories where slavery was prohibited, he ran the risk of losing his slave without compensation. If a slaveholder wanted to settle in those territories, he couldn’t bring any slaves with him. Most Southern leaders felt this was unfair and unconstitutional.

In 1856 the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger Taney, ruled in the Dred Scott decision that Congress did not have the right to ban slavery in the territories and that therefore the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. However, the Republicans immediately announced that if they gained control of Congress, they would ban slavery in all the territories, even though the Supreme Court had just ruled that Congress had no right to ban slavery in any territory. Most Southern leaders viewed the Republican position as unfair and lawless.

The Southern position was that each territory had the right to abolish or legalize slavery when it applied for statehood, but that until then slaveholders should have equal access to the territories. Southern leaders argued that since the territories were supposed to be the common possession of all citizens, it was unfair to ban slaveholders from them, especially since slaveholders had played an important role in winning the Mexican War, which resulted in the acquisition of the territories granted in the Mexican Cession.

Most Southern leaders viewed equal access to the territories as a matter of honor and principle, as well as a matter of law. They felt it was wrong in principle to treat slaveholders as second-class citizens by denying them equal access to the territories. They knew that Northern wage slavery wasn’t banned from the territories. They knew that Northern factory owners who cruelly abused their workers enjoyed full access to the territories and were free to bring their inhumane sweatshops with them. They knew that many slaveholders treated their slaves much better than some Northern factory owners treated their workers. So most Southern leaders felt it was unfair and insulting to deny slaveholders equal access to the territories.

There were two major Southern positions on what should be done to provide slaveholders full access to the territories. One position, advocated by Senator Albert Brown, was that federal legislation should mandate the protection of slavery in each territory until the territory became a state. The other position, advanced by men like Jefferson Davis, James Orr, and Alexander Stephens, was that the people of each territory should be able to decide whether or not to allow slaveholders to travel or settle among them with their slaves (Cooper, Jefferson Davis, American, pp. 327-329). The Republicans, on the other hand, argued that under no circumstances should any territory be allowed to permit slavery, even though the territory could choose to abolish slavery when it became a state.

It’s important to understand that most Republicans wanted to ban slavery from the territories primarily because they wanted to reserve the territories for white workers. When they were Whigs or Free Soilers in 1846-1849, most Republican politicians, including Lincoln, supported the Wilmot Proviso, which would have banned free blacks from moving into the territories, in addition to banning slavery there (Divine et al, editors, America Past and Present, p. 413). Also, as mentioned earlier, in the 1860 election campaign many Republican candidates championed their party as the true “White Man’s Party” that would reserve the territories for white labor. Lincoln’s attitude on this issue reflected the thinking of most Republicans:

Now irrespective of the moral aspect of this question as to whether there is a right or wrong in enslaving a negro, I am still in favor of our new Territories being in such a condition that white men may find a home—may find some spot where they can better their condition—where they can settle upon new soil and better their condition in life. I am in favor of this not merely (I must say it here as I have elsewhere) for our own people who are born amongst us, but as an outlet for free white people everywhere, the world over. . . . (Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858, New York: The Library of America, 1989, edited by Don Fehrenbacher, p. 807)

Textbooks and virtually all history books summarily dismiss the Supreme Court’s position on the Missouri Compromise in the Dred Scott ruling. However, the court’s position on this issue is by no means untenable. Critics of the decision note that the congress of the Articles of Confederation passed the Northwest Ordinance, which banned slavery in what was then the Northwest Territory. But this by no means proves that the federal Congress had the right to ban slavery in territories of the Union (Davis, Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 1, pp. 3-9; Benjamin Franklin Grady, The Case of the South Against the North, Dahlonega, Georgia: Crown Rights Book Company, 2003, reprint of original edition, pp. 258-260; Alexander Stephens, A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States, Volume 1, Philadelphia: The National Publishing Company, 1868, Appendix G). James Madison, the “father of the Constitution,” argued that slaveholders had the right to travel throughout the Union with their slaves and that Congress did not have the right to ban slavery in territories belonging to the United States (Cisco, Taking A Stand, p. 59). During the congressional debates on the Missouri Compromise, Charles Pinckney, who had been a member of the Constitutional Convention, “reminded the House of Representatives that the framers never intended that Congress involve itself in slavery” (Cisco, Taking A Stand, p. 59).

On an aside note, Chief Justice Taney’s reputation has been unfairly brutalized over the Dred Scott decision. Taney’s position on the Missouri Compromise was and is credible and defensible, and if he had stopped there he would have been on solid ground. But, tragically and mistakenly, Taney also ruled in Dred Scott that the Constitution barred blacks from federal citizenship, and that the sublime statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” did not apply to blacks. Civil rights advocates were justifiably outraged by these arguments. However, before we judge Taney too harshly, a few things should be said in his defense. Although he argued that the Constitution did not permit blacks to be United States citizens, he added that they could receive state citizenship. As for Taney’s mistaken belief that blacks were not included in the phrase “all men are created equal,” even many Northerners shared this view at the time, including Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois. Lincoln himself didn’t believe the phrase referred to inherent equality but only to legal equality in certain respects, and more than once he called the Declaration of Independence "the white-man’s charter of freedom" (Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858, pp. 269, 477; see also Bennett, Forced Into Glory, pp. 303-304). It should also be pointed out that Taney had no love for slavery. In fact, Taney disliked slavery and had long since freed his own slaves. Very few textbooks mention these facts. To his credit, McPherson mentions them in his book The Battle Cry of Freedom. McPherson also notes that Taney was “committed to liberating American enterprise from the shackles of special privilege,” that as President Jackson’s secretary of the treasury he helped destroy the Second Bank of the United States, and that as a Supreme Court justice he ruled against special corporate charters (The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 173). Northern historian James Ford Rhodes observed that in the years leading up to the Dred Scott decision, Taney “had gained a solid reputation for accurate knowledge of law and clearness of statement” (“Antecedents of the American Civil War,” in Rozwenc, editor, The Causes of the American Civil War, p. 58). Incidentally, when Lincoln began to forcefully suppress political opposition at the start of the war, it was Taney who had the courage to tell Lincoln, in Ex Parte Merryman, that he had no right to suspend habeas corpus protection against illegal arrest and that only Congress had that right. Lincoln ignored the decision and reportedly wanted to have Taney arrested.

Any response to the charge that the South controlled the federal government before the war wouldn’t be complete without an examination of the Brooks-Sumner incident. The incident is often cited as an example of the South’s alleged intolerance and barbarism even in the halls of Congress. On May 22, 1856, Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina walked onto the floor of the Senate carrying a cane. Brooks was looking for Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Sumner, a Radical Republican, had crudely insulted Brooks’s aged uncle, Senator Andrew Butler, in a Senate speech two days earlier. Brooks saw Sumner sitting at his desk on the Senate floor. He approached Sumner, told him his speech was insulting, and without warning proceeded to strike him several times with the cane. Sumner struggled to rise from his desk, but collapsed as Brooks continued to strike him. The degree of injury that Sumner suffered is still debated, but it seems clear that his injuries were rather serious. Over the next several months, Sumner did return to the Senate two or three times to cast votes on key issues. But some of his wounds became infected and he suffered painful headaches. He then went on an extended trip to Europe to seek a cure for his headaches. While in Europe, he “led a fairly active social life” (Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 127). He returned to the Senate full-time three years later. To his credit, Sumner publicly forgave Brooks for the assault. For his part, Brooks viewed the attack as an unpleasant duty required by the code of honor, and he explained that he had not intended to hurt Sumner but only to punish him for his insulting speech.

Shortly after the attack, Northern congressmen tried to expel Brooks from the House, but they failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required for expulsion. Northern politicians were outraged that Southern representatives wouldn’t vote to expel Brooks. Not all Southern congressmen necessarily condoned Brooks’s assault, but most of them believed that Sumner had behaved in a rudely provocative manner and that therefore Brooks’s conduct did not warrant expulsion. I can’t condone Brooks’s behavior. By any reasonable measurement, his use of force was excessive. I suspect I would have voted to expel him from the House, or at least to censure him. However, I agree with Lloyd Paul Stryker that the attack “was provoked if any ever was” (Andrew Johnson, p. 51). Senator Douglas of Illinois found Sumner’s speech so inflammatory that he accused Sumner of trying “to provoke some one of us to kick him as one would a dog in the street” (Stryker, Andrew Johnson, pp. 50-51). Randall and Donald said the speech was “intemperate and abusive” and that it included “ugly denunciation” and “an offensive personal attack” against Brooks’s uncle (The Civil War and Reconstruction, p. 101). Simkins said the following about the Brooks-Sumner incident:

The way in which events in Kansas poisoned the atmosphere is vividly illustrated by the Brooks-Sumner affair in the halls of Congress. A few days before John Brown’s attack at Pottawatomie, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts delivered his “Crime Against Kansas” speech in which he accepted without question the authenticity of every charge against the proslavery element in Kansas, and heaped personal abuse upon the unoffending and aged Senator Andrew P. Butler of South Carolina. “It is his object,” commented Douglas on the effort of the Massachusetts senator, “to provoke some one of us to kick him as one would a dog in the street, that he may get sympathy upon the just chastisement.” Two days after Sumner had spoken, Douglas’s suggestion was carried out. Preston S. Brooks, a representative from South Carolina and a kinsman of Butler, got the satisfaction of a Southern gentleman by beating the vituperative New Englander into insensibility with a gutta-percha walking stick while Sumner was sitting at his desk in the Senate. . . .

Many Southerners believed that Brooks’s act was unwise because it played into the hands of the abolitionists, although there were few who felt that it was not justified. His Southern colleagues prevented his expulsion from Congress by refusing the necessary two-thirds majority, and when he resigned voluntarily he was re-elected with only six votes cast against him. Enthusiastic friends presented him with suitably inscribed canes and wrote exultant editorials. Brooks did not like these vulgar manifestations of approval. He was a courtly gentleman far removed from the ruffian depicted in the abolitionist propaganda. To him the chastisement of Sumner was an unpleasant duty under a code of honor which required that the slanderer of a helpless kinsman should not go unpunished. (A History of the South, p. 200)

Southern author Lyon G. Tyler pointed out that when one Northern congressman attacked another Northern congressman in an earlier incident similar to the Brooks-Sumner affair, neither offender was expelled and both were reelected:

The remarkable point is that New England set the example for Sumner’s flagellation. In 1798 Roger Griswold, a high-strutting Federalist of Connecticut, grossly insulted Matthew Lyon, a Democratic Republican of Vermont, and Lyon spat in his face. A motion was made to expel Lyon, but his party in Congress, while condemning his conduct, thought that he had great provocation and refused to vote for it. Thereupon after several weeks Griswold attacked Lyon, while writing at his desk, with a thick hickory cane, rather a contrast to the small gutta-percha stick employed by Brooks, which was hollow and broke into pieces in Brooks’ hand. Lyon was, like Sumner, caught in his seat, but he managed with his arm to protect his head from injury and, releasing himself, gallantly charged his opponent. . . . The House refused to expel either Griswold or Lyon, and by vote of their New England constituents both were returned to Congress at the next election in 1800. Were their constituencies necessarily degraded on this account? (A Confederate Catechism, pp. 54-55)

The Reconstruction Era

Time only allows me to provide a limited sketch of the “Reconstruction” program that the Republicans imposed on the South after the war. I don’t deny that some good things were accomplished during Reconstruction. Nor do I deny that Reconstruction, as bad as it was, could have been worse. However, most textbooks only talk about the good aspects of Reconstruction and either ignore or minimize the negative aspects. The unjust, illegal aspects of Reconstruction merit discussion.

Reconstruction began in 1865 and officially ended in 1877. The Radicals took substantial control of Reconstruction in 1867. Reconstruction was bad enough from the outset, but it became much worse under Radical influence. The Radicals illegally placed the South under military rule. They divided the South into five military districts, each governed by a Union army general. They nullified the recent Southern elections and refused to allow Southern congressmen to take their seats in Congress, even though these men had been elected in elections that were just as valid as any election that had been held in the North. Not content with their political subjugation of the South, the Radicals and other Republicans allowed the Southern states to be looted and exploited for years by Northern business interests and by corrupt Reconstruction governments. The Radicals did these things over the strenuous objections of Lincoln’s successor, President Andrew Johnson.

The Radicals also shamelessly contradicted the earlier Republican claim that the Southern states had not left the Union. During the war, Lincoln and other Republicans made the bizarre argument that the Southern states had not really left the Union but that they had been taken over by “combinations” too powerful for local authorities to suppress. According to this pathetic argument, Lincoln wasn’t invading the Southern states; rather, he was merely liberating them from the “combinations” that had supposedly seized control of them. Well, once the war was over, the Radicals decided that the Southern states had left the Union after all, and that they couldn’t be readmitted until they complied with Republican demands. This amazing reversal made a mockery of the Republicans’ pre-war assertion that the war was not being waged to subjugate the South.

During the worst period of Reconstruction, Southerners who voiced objections to Republican policy could be jailed, and even executed, without indictment or trial. Southern newspapers that criticized Reconstruction ran the real risk of being shut down, and some newspapers were closed down for this reason. Federal troops were stationed all over the South, and in many cases their conduct was disgraceful and abusive. Many Republican operatives and other Northerners who came to the South poisoned race relations by inciting former slaves to hate and persecute Southern whites. The Republicans made it illegal for males who had served in the Confederate army or in the Confederate government to vote or hold public office. Ex-Confederates could only vote if they were willing to lie by taking the “ironclad oath.” The oath disqualified any man who had served in the Confederacy or who had even “aided” the Confederacy. Of course, this excluded a large majority of Southern men. To their credit, some Southern black leaders opposed denying former Confederates the right to vote, but their efforts were unsuccessful. New Southern legislatures and governors were chosen in elections in which most former Confederates were barred from voting. These corrupt Reconstruction state governments imposed oppressive taxes on their citizens and also stole or wasted a staggering amount of taxpayer money. Historian Albert B. Moore noted the vindictive, unjust nature of Reconstruction:

The war set the stage for a complete reconstruction of the South. Furious hatred, politics, economic considerations, and a curious conviction that God had joined a righteous North to use it as an instrument for the purging of the wicked South gave a keen edge to the old reconstruction urge. The victories of bullets and bayonets were followed by the equally victorious attack of tongues and press. Ministers mounted their pulpits on Easter Sunday, the day following President Lincoln’s tragic death, and assured their sad auditors that God’s will had been done, that the President had been removed because his heart was too merciful to punish the South as God required. An eminent New York divine assured his audience that the vice-regent of Christ, the new president, Andrew Johnson, was mandated from on high “to hew the rebels in pieces before the Lord.” “So let us say,” with becoming piety and sweet submissiveness he enjoined, “God’s will be done.” Whether the ministers thought, after they discovered that Johnson was opposed to a reign of terror, that the Lord had made a mistake is not a matter of record. . . .

Many unfriendly writers invaded the South, found what they wanted, and wrote books, articles, and editorials that strengthened the conviction that the South must be torn to pieces and made anew. Books, journals, and newspapers stimulated the impulse to be vigilant and stern, to repress and purge. . . .

The repudiation of its debts impoverished the South and destroyed its financial relationships. While the South lost its debts, it had to pay its full share of the northern debts which amounted to about four-fifths of the total northern war expenses. The money for this debt was spent in the North for its upbuilding. It paid also its share of the $20,000,000 returned by the Federal treasury to the northern states for direct taxes collected from them during the war, and of extravagant pensions to Union soldiers. Professor James L. Sellers estimates that the Sound paid in these ways an indemnity of at least a billion dollars to the North. . . .

It would be safe to say that the people of the North never understood how the South suffered during the Radical regime. The Radicals who controlled most of the organs of public opinion were in no attitude of mind to listen to southern complaints, and most people were too busy with the pursuit of alluring business opportunities that unfolded before them to think much of what was going on down South. . . .

The South staggered out of the Reconstruction, which ended officially in 1877, embittered, impoverished, encumbered with debt, and discredited by Radical propaganda. . . . The tax load had been devastating. The lands of thousands upon thousands had been sold for taxes. Huge state and local debts, much of which was fraudulent, had been piled up. So many bonds, legal and illegal, had been sold that public credit was destroyed. (In Gerald Grob and George Billias, editors, Interpretations of American History, Volume 2, New York: The Free Press, 1967, pp. 33-35, 37-38, original emphasis)

Hummel notes the heavy tax burden that was imposed on the South after the war:

. . . the war-ravaged South suffered under some of the heaviest state and local taxation in proportion to wealth in U.S. history. Tax rates in 1870 were three or four times what they had been in 1860, even though property values had declined significantly. Many who had not lost their land already were now forced into bankruptcy. At one point 15 percent of all taxable land in Mississippi was up for sale because of tax defaults. (Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, p. 316)

Economist Thomas DiLorenzo discusses some of the ways in which Republicans and Northern business interests exploited the South during Reconstruction:

What did the Republican Party do with its monopolistic political power? First, it plundered Southern taxpayers by greatly expanding state and local governmental budgets. Little of this governmental expansion benefited the general public; the main beneficiaries were the thousands of “carpetbaggers” (and a few “scalawags”) who populated the newly bloated governmental bureaucracies and who benefited from government contracts. . . .

The biggest item on the agenda of the Republicans was government subsidies to the corporations that bankrolled the Republican Party. The Confederate Constitution outlawed such corporate welfare, but with the defeat of the Confederate armies there was no longer any opposition to it.

From 1866 to 1872 the eleven southern states amassed nearly $132 million in state debt for railroad subsidies alone. In countless instances bonds were issued but were backed by no property of any value. In many states bonds were sold before work began on railroads, and “dishonest promoters sold these bonds for what they could get and never built the roads.” [Quoting E. M. Coulter, The South during Reconstruction, LSU Press, p. 150]. . . .

The federal government established a “Land Commission” that was ostensibly set up to buy property and turn it into homesteads for ex-slaves. Instead, most of the land was handed out to those with good connections to the Republican Party. . . . Many recipients of land grants were paid “front men” for mining and timber companies.

Many of the Republican Party operatives who dominated Southern legislatures during Reconstruction literally sold their votes for cash on a daily basis: The going rate was just under $300 per vote. . . . The expansion of government provided myriad opportunities for bribery, and Republican Party opportunists took great advantage of them. . . .

The historian E. Merton Coulter catalogued myriad ways in which Republican Party operatives figured out how to loot Southern taxpayers:

* By 1870 the cost of printing alone to the government of Florida exceeded the entire state budget for 1860. The legislature sold to its friends (and to itself) over a million acres of public land for five cents an acre.

* The South Carolina legislature paid supporters $75,000 to take a state census in 1869, although the federal government was to do the same thing a year later for $43,000. It also paid the House Speaker an extra $1,000 in compensation after he lost $1,000 on a horse race.

* Before the war a session of the Louisiana legislature cost about $100,000 to run; after the war the cost exceeded $1 million because of lavish spending on lunches, alcohol, women’s apparel, and even coffins. The Louisiana legislature also purchased a hotel for $250,000 that had just sold for $84,000 and chartered a navigation company and purchased $100,000 in stock even though the company never came into being. . . .

* Taxes on property were increased by intolerable amounts so that the governmental agents could then confiscate the property for “unpaid taxes”. . . . By 1872 property taxes in the South were, on average, about four times what they were in 1860. In South Carolina, the birthplace of the secessionist movement, they were thirty times higher. This was devastating to the Southern economy and makes a mockery of the very term “Reconstruction.”

The tax collectors stole much of this money. More than half a million dollars in taxes collected in 1872 were never turned in to the Florida treasury. . . .

Although the South was economically destitute, a punitive five cents per pound federal tax was placed on cotton, making it difficult, if not impossible, for many cotton growers to stay in business. A military order stated that anyone who had sold cotton to the Confederate government must give up his cotton to the U.S. government. Hundreds of U.S. Treasury agents swarmed over the South, confiscating cotton with the backing of armed U.S. troops. Little money was raised for the U.S. Treasury, however, for the Treasury agents embezzled much of it. . . .

In order to keep this corrupt system running, the Republican-controlled governments subsidized pro-Republican newspapers to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars annually and, in some cases, granted them legal monopolies in the newspaper business in particular towns. In effect, the Republicans were extending Lincoln’s policy of censoring or shutting down opposition newspapers in the North during the war. (The Real Lincoln, pp. 211-212, 213, 214, 215-217)

As noted, Northern business interests took full advantage of the South’s subjugation during Reconstruction. African-American scholars Franklin and Moss note that “Northern financiers and industrialists took advantage of the opportunity to impose their economic control on the South, and much of it endured for generations” (From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, p. 264). Kenneth Davis concedes that Southern railroad companies were "burdened for decades by unfair rates and restrictive tariffs set by Northerners, who controlled the vast majority of railways and the legislatures that set rates" (Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, pp. 425-426).

“But,” some will ask, “wasn’t slavery abolished under Reconstruction?” Yes, slavery was abolished during the Johnson phase of Reconstruction when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 18, 1865. We can all agree that slavery was wrong and that it needed to be abolished. But it was abolished in a way that was unfair and that caused enormous damage to the Southern economy. Under the Thirteenth Amendment, Southern slaveholders received no compensation for their slaves. The abolition of slavery without compensation cost the South about two billion dollars in capital, and it reduced real estate values by at least that amount. In terms of modern monetary value, this represented a total loss of over sixty billion dollars.

Southern slaveholders should have been able to recover the cost of their slaves, just as Northern slaveholders had been able to do decades earlier. Most Southern slaveholders treated their slaves humanely. Many of these men believed they had a Christian duty to properly and respectfully care for their slaves. One doesn’t have to condone human bondage to acknowledge that in most cases Southern slavery was administered humanely. This isn’t the place for an extended discussion on slavery in the pre-war South, but it should be pointed out that Southern slaves had a life expectancy that was comparable to urban populations and higher than in Europe, that 66-80 percent of slave marriages were not broken up, that nearly 40 percent of the marriages performed in Southern Episcopal churches between 1800 and 1860 were slave marriages, that even in the 1850s many slaves were able to buy their freedom because they were permitted to earn money, and that hundreds of thousands of slaves were converted to Christianity (Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, p. 40; McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, pp. 34-36; John Blassingame, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, Revised and Enlarged Edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 169; Allan Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln, Volume 2, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950, p. 161). Granted, no matter how humanely slavery was administered, it was still wrong. The point is that most Southern slaveholders did not deserve to lose their slaves without compensation, and that this unfair policy did great damage to the South’s economy.

Textbooks note the fact that Radical Reconstruction included civil rights reforms that enabled former slaves to vote. However, they almost never mention information that sheds important light on those reforms. If the Republicans had enacted and implemented these reforms in a legal, ethical manner, and if their motives for doing so had been noble, they would deserve nothing but praise. But such was not the case. Most Republican leaders supported the imposition of these reforms because they wanted to control and exploit the Southern states, not because they really cared about the fate of the ex-slaves. Republican operatives manipulated, and sometimes even coerced, ex-slaves to vote Republican so the Republican Party could take over Southern state governments. Once the Republicans achieved this goal, they proceeded to engage in large-scale corruption and oppression, which harmed blacks and whites alike. A respected moderate Southern leader in Mississippi warned President Johnson that the Republican-created Freedmen’s Bureau was “demoralizing the negroes, robbing and defrauding them” (Felicity Allen, Jefferson Davis: Unconquerable Heart, Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1999, p. 472). DiLorenzo sheds further light on how and why the Republicans imposed civil rights reforms during Reconstruction:

Great resources were expended on registering the adult male ex-slaves to vote, while a law denying the franchise to anyone involved in the late “rebellion” disenfranchised [took away the right to vote from] most Southern white men. So rigorous were the restrictions placed on white Southern males that anyone who even organized contributions of food and clothing for family and friends in the Confederate army was disenfranchised, as were all those who purchased bonds from the Confederate government. Even if one did not participate in the war effort, voter registration required one to publicly proclaim that one’s sympathies were with the Federal armies during the war. . . .

The federally funded “Union Leagues” were run by Republican Party operatives and administered voter registration of the ex-slaves. This, too, was a dramatic change in the nation’s political life, for tax dollars taken from taxpayers of all political parties were being used to register only Republican voters. The ex-slaves were promised many things, including the property of white Southerners, if they registered and voted Republican and, at times, were threatened or intimidated if they dared to register Democrat. All of this was funded with federal tax dollars. . . . For years, these men, along with government bureaucrats associated with the “Freedmen’s Bureau,” promised blacks that if they voted Republican they would be given the property of the white population (and, of course, they never were).

Missionaries and many other people assisted the ex-slaves in integrating into society, but the primary concern of the Party of Lincoln was to get them registered to vote Republican, not to educate them, feed them, or help them find employment. The result was that by 1868 ten of the fourteen southern U.S. senators, twenty of the thirty-give representatives, and four of the seven governors were Northern Republicans who had never met their constituents until after the war. . . .

If Northerners in general and the Republican Party in particular wanted blacks to be given the vote because of their concern for social equality, then one has to wonder why voters in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and Kansas refused to extend the right to vote to blacks in 1867 and 1868. . . . (The Real Lincoln, pp. 208-210, original emphasis)

Civil rights could and should have been advanced through legal, ethical means. Yes, this would have taken longer, but it would have preserved the constitutional republic that our founding fathers gave us, and all Americans would have been better off in the long run. Instead, in the name of imposing civil rights on the South, the Republicans, led by the Radicals, subverted the rule of law, permitted Republican operatives to engage in astonishing corruption, looted the South for years, poisoned race relations, illegally and unethically amended the Constitution, further destroyed the balance of power between the states and the federal government, and empowered the federal government to perform functions that the founding fathers did not want it to perform.

I would like to conclude this discussion on Reconstruction by quoting a substantial portion of President Johnson’s veto of the first Radical Reconstruction Act. Before doing so, I should point out that the Radicals tried to remove Johnson from office because he opposed their Reconstruction program, even though he had staunchly supported the war and had opposed secession. When Lincoln was assassinated, some Radicals said Lincoln’s death was “a godsend to the country” because they believed Johnson, unlike Lincoln, would help them ravage the South (Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877, p. 50; John Hope Franklin, Reconstruction After the Civil War, University of Chicago Press, 1961, pp. 26-30). When the Radicals realized Johnson was not going to cooperate with them, they turned on him with a vengeance. They impeached (i.e., indicted) him in the House and then put him on trial in the Senate, on the basis of utterly frivolous charges–they fell just one vote short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction. Amazingly, a few Radicals even tried to frame Johnson for Lincoln’s murder. For his part, President Johnson came to suspect that some of the Radicals had been behind Lincoln’s assassination because Lincoln, for whatever reasons, opposed their plans to oppress and plunder the defeated South. In any case, the Radicals overturned Johnson’s veto. Therefore, their Reconstruction program became law and was imposed on ten of the eleven Southern states (the one exception was Tennessee). Here is some of what President Johnson had to say about the first Reconstruction Act and why he refused to sign it:

I have examined the bill "to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States" with the care and the anxiety which its transcendent importance is calculated to awaken. I am unable to give it my assent for reasons so grave that I hope a statement of them may have some influence on the minds of the patriotic and enlightened men with whom the decision must ultimately rest. The bill places all the people of the ten States therein named under the absolute domination of military rulers. . . .

The bill . . . would seem to show upon its face that the establishment of peace and good order is not its real object. The fifth section declares that the preceding sections shall cease to operate in any State where certain events shall have happened. . . . All these conditions must be fulfilled before the people of any of these States can be relieved from the bondage of military domination; but when they are fulfilled, then immediately the pains and penalties of the bill are to cease, no matter whether there be peace and order or not, and without any reference to the security of life or property. The excuse given for the bill in the preamble is admitted by the bill itself not to be real. The military rule which it establishes is plainly to be used, not for any purpose of order or for the prevention of crime, but solely as a means of coercing the people into the adoption of principles and measures to which it is known that they are opposed, and upon which they have an undeniable right to exercise their own judgment.

I submit to Congress whether this measure is not in its whole character, scope, and object without precedent and without authority, in palpable conflict with the plainest provisions of the Constitution, and utterly destructive to those great principles of liberty and humanity for which our ancestors on both sides of the Atlantic have shed so much blood and expended so much treasure.

The ten States named in the bill are divided into five districts. For each district an officer of the Army, not below the rank of a brigadier-general, is to be appointed to rule over the people; and he is to be supported with an efficient military force to enable him to perform his duties and enforce his authority. Those duties and that authority, as defined by the third section of the bill, are "to protect all persons in their rights of person and property, to suppress insurrection, disorder, and violence, and to punish or cause to be punished all disturbers of the public peace or criminals."

The power thus given to the commanding officer over all the people of each district is that of an absolute monarch. His mere will is to take the place of all law. The law of the States is now the only rule applicable to the subjects placed under his control, and that is completely displaced by the clause which declares all interference of State authority to be null and void. He alone is permitted to determine what are rights of person or property, and he may protect them in such way as in his discretion may seem proper. It places at his free disposal all the lands and goods in his district, and he may distribute them without let or hindrance to whom he pleases. Being bound by no State law, and there being no other law to regulate the subject, he may make a criminal code of his own; and he can make it as bloody as any recorded in history, or he can reserve the privilege of acting upon the impulse of his private passions in each case that arises. He is bound by no rules of evidence; there is, indeed, no provision by which he is authorized or required to take any evidence at all. Everything is a crime which he chooses to call so, and all persons are condemned whom he pronounces to be guilty. He is not bound to keep and record or make any report of his proceedings. He may arrest his victims wherever he finds them, without warrant, accusation, or proof of probable cause. If he gives them a trial before he inflicts the punishment, he gives it of his grace and mercy, not because he is commanded so to do. It is plain that the authority here given to the military officer amounts to absolute despotism. But to make it still more unendurable, the bill provides that it may be delegated to as many subordinates as he chooses to appoint, for it declares that he shall "punish or cause to be punished."

Such a power has not been wielded by any monarch in England for more than five hundred years. In all that time no people who speak the English language have borne such servitude. It reduces the whole population of the ten States–all persons, of every color, sex, and condition, and every stranger within their limits–to the most abject and degrading slavery. No master ever had a control so absolute over the slaves as this bill gives to the military officers over both white and colored persons.

I come now to a question which is, if possible still more important. Have we the power to establish and carry into execution a measure like this? I answer, Certainly not, if we derive our authority from the Constitution and if we are bound by the limitations which it imposes. This proposition is perfectly clear, that no branch of the Federal Government–executive, legislative, or judicial–can have any just powers except those which it derives through and exercises under the organic law of the Union. Outside of the Constitution we have no legal authority more than private citizens, and within it we have only so much as that instrument gives us. This broad principle limits all our functions and applies to all subjects. It protects not only the citizens of States which are within the Union, but it shields every human being who comes or is brought under our jurisdiction. We have no right to do in one place more than in another that which the Constitution says we shall not do at all. . . .

I need not say to the representatives of the American people that their Constitution forbids the exercise of judicial power in any way but one–that is, by the ordained and established courts. It is equally well known that in all criminal cases a trial by jury is made indispensable by the express words of that instrument. . . .

An act of Congress is proposed which, if carried out, would deny a trial by the lawful courts and juries to 9,000,000 American citizens and to their posterity for an indefinite period. It seems to be scarcely possible that anyone should seriously believe this consistent with a Constitution which declares in simple, plain, and unambiguous language that all persons shall have that right and that no person shall ever in any case be deprived of it. The Constitution also forbids the arrest of the citizen without judicial warrant, founded on probable cause. This bill authorizes an arrest without warrant, at the pleasure of a military commander. The Constitution declares that "no person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on presentment by a grand jury". . . .

The United States are bound to guarantee to each State a republican form of government. Can it be pretended that this obligation is not palpably broken if we carry out a measure like this, which wipes away every vestige of republican government in ten States and puts the life, property, liberty, and honor of all the people in each of them under the domination of a single person clothed with unlimited authority?. . .

It is a part of our public history which can never be forgotten that both houses of Congress, in July 1861, declared in the form of a solemn resolution that the war was and should be carried on for no purpose of subjugation. . . . This resolution was adopted and sent forth to the world unanimously by the Senate and with only two dissenting voices in the House. It was accepted by the friends of the Union in the South as well as in the North as expressing honestly and truly the object of the war. On the faith of it many thousands of persons in both sections gave their lives and their fortunes to the cause. To repudiate it now by refusing to the States and to the individuals within them the rights which the Constitution and laws of the Union would secure to them is a breach of our plighted honor for which I can imagine no excuse and to which I can not voluntarily become a party. . . . (Veto of the first Reconstruction Act, March 2, 1867)

The True Nature of the War

In reality, the Civil War was not a civil war. In a civil war, two or more factions fight for control of the national government. But the South was not trying to overthrow the national government, nor was it trying to achieve exclusive control of the government. The South merely wanted to leave the federal government in peace and was willing to pay its share of the national debt and to pay compensation for federal installations in the Southern states. The Confederacy tried to establish peaceful relations with the federal government, but Lincoln refused to even meet with Confederate representatives.

The Civil War was a war of aggression against the South. Republican leaders and their Northern industrialist backers used the force of the federal government to destroy Southern independence. Some of these men despised the South. Radical Republicans saw in secession an excuse to subjugate and exploit the Southern states. Northern business leaders who bankrolled the Republicans feared that their financial empire would be threatened if the Confederate states were able to trade directly with other nations with the much lower Confederate tariff. The Republicans weren’t about to lower the tariff, since they were committed to drastically raising it (which they did soon after the South seceded). Rather than fairly compete with the low Confederate tariff by lowering the federal tariff, the Republicans and their Northern financial backers opted to destroy the Confederacy by force. Charles Adams demonstrates that after the Confederacy announced its low tariff, influential Northern business interests began to strongly oppose peaceful separation and Lincoln’s cabinet quickly reversed itself and adopted a hardline stance on Fort Sumter (When In the Course of Human Events, pp. 61-70). Simkins said the following about the motives behind the federal invasion, race relations in the North, and what happened when Southern influence was removed from the federal government:

Northern industrial and financial leaders wished to destroy the influence of the agrarian South in Washington in order to use the powers of the federal government to their own advantage. Northern common people wished slavery restricted or abolished because they objected to the competition of cheap labor, not because they wished to make the bondsmen their equals. Both of these groups revealed their intentions when Southern influence was removed from the federal capital and when the Negro was free. The business leaders imposed high tariffs, constitutional protection to corporations, monetary deflation, and centralized banking. The common people denied the free Negro access to Western lands [the western territories] and imposed upon him caste restrictions in some respects sharper than those of the South. “It is not humanity,” said Jefferson Davis to the North in 1861, “that influences you in the position that you now occupy before the country. . . . It is that you may have a majority in the Congress of the United States and convert the government into an engine of Northern aggrandizement. It is that your section may grow in power and prosperity upon treasures unjustly taken from the South.” (A History of the South, p. 190)

Even Lerone Bennett, an African-American scholar who is strongly critical of the Confederacy, agrees that the Northern industrialists supported the war for monetary gain, had no interest in emancipation, and used blacks as pawns:

There was finally—and conclusively—the game plan of the Northern industrialists, who were fighting not for Black freedom or, to tell the truth, White freedom, but for the freedom to exploit and develop the American market. Everything indeed suggests that Ralph J. Bunche was correct when he said that the freeing of the slaves was “only an incident in the violent clash of interests between the industrial North and the agricultural South—a conflict that was resolved in favor of the industrial North. In this struggle the Negro was an innocent pawn.” (Forced Into Glory, pp. 547-548)

Most Republican leaders, while claiming they were “saving” the Union and preserving representative government, were undemocratic and despotic. The worst offenders were the Radical Republicans, but other Republicans were almost as bad. The Republicans and their generals imprisoned thousands of Northern citizens in order to suppress Northern opposition to the war. They shut down hundreds of Northern newspapers and jailed dozens of newspaper editors for expressing “unpatriotic” views. They suspended the writ of habeas corpus (protection against unlawful arrest), rigged elections, prevented two Northern legislatures from convening, and branded as “traitors” Northern political opponents who spoke out against federal violations of civil rights. In one case, they arrested thirty-one members of the Maryland legislature and sealed off the town where the legislature was meeting. When it became known that former president Franklin Pierce believed the war was cruel and unnecessary, Republicans accused him of treason and nearly had him arrested. (Pierce feared the true purpose of the war was to wipe out the states as sovereign entities and to drastically increase the power of the federal government in violation of the Constitution. Pierce also believed it was wrong to hold the Union together by force.)

The Republicans and their generals waged a shameful form of “total war” against the South, causing the deaths of some 50,000 Southern civilians and wiping out whole towns in the process. They hired thousands of unscrupulous mercenaries, including many criminals fresh from European jails. They violated just about every rule of civilized warfare known to man. They used tactics that today would justify prosecution for war crimes. A few Union generals, including George McClellan, objected to this cruel form of warfare, and at least one general, Don C. Buell, resigned from the army in protest–but these men were the exception, not the rule. On the other hand, the vast majority of Confederate generals refused to use the brutal tactics that so many Union generals were using. At one point, some Confederate officials urged Jefferson Davis to order Confederate forces to employ the barbaric tactics that were being used by Union generals like William Tecumseh Sherman and Phil Sheridan, but Davis refused. If the South had won, several Union generals could have been tried and hung for war crimes. Most Republican leaders, including Lincoln, strongly backed those generals. (A sobering collection of Union war atrocities is presented in Thomas Bland Keys’ book The Uncivil War: Union Army and Navy Excesses in the Official Records, Biloxi, Mississippi: The Beauvoir Press, 1991, which is based almost exclusively on Union army records.)

After the war, most Republican leaders continued to violate the Constitution. They imposed a clearly illegal military rule on the Southern states and proceeded to plunder those states for years. The Radicals and their supporters in the Union army accused and jailed Jefferson Davis on the absurd charge that he was involved in the conspiracy that killed Lincoln. They based this charge on evidence that was later found to be fraudulent. They tried to remove President Johnson from office for opposing their illegal plans to ravage the South and for daring to defy their attempt to prevent him from replacing Edwin Stanton as secretary of war. Can you imagine the outcry that would arise today if Congress tried to force the president to retain a cabinet member against his will? The Radicals also sought to remove Johnson because he had attacked them in his campaign speeches: Incredibly, one of the charges on which the Radicals impeached Johnson in the House was that his speeches in the 1866 election campaign allegedly constituted “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Radicals came close to establishing a military dictatorship in the name of “reconstructing” the defeated Southern states. The Radicals passed a bill that said the military didn’t have to obey the president’s orders unless the commanding general of the Army approved those orders (McDonald, States’ Rights and the Union, p. 213). The bill also made it a crime for any officer to obey orders except those that came from the commanding general (Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 298). Just imagine what most Americans would think if Congress even considered such a law in our day—it would be denounced as a dangerous step toward military dictatorship.

Or, just imagine what most Americans today would think if the secretary of defense refused to step down when suspended by the president but instead barricaded himself in his office, issued an order for the arrest of the man appointed to replace him, and asked friendly members of Congress to intervene. And imagine what most Americans would think if the commanding general of the Army then stationed troops around the Pentagon in order to keep the secretary of defense in power against the president’s express wishes. Impossible? Couldn’t happen in America? Well, that’s exactly what happened when President Johnson tried to replace Stanton as secretary of war. When Johnson appointed Lorenzo Thomas to replace Stanton, Stanton barricaded himself in his office, issued an order for Thomas’s arrest, and asked his fellow Radicals to help him remain in power. General Ulysses S. Grant then stationed troops around the War Department building and authorized them to call for reinforcements if necessary. Historian Elizabeth D. Leonard says the following about this episode:

Meanwhile, General Grant in effect placed the army in direct opposition to the President by publicly throwing his support behind Stanton and positioning armed guards around the War Department building. This immediately gave rise to anxious rumors that violence, and perhaps even a new civil war, was about to erupt in the capital. (Lincoln’s Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion after the Civil War, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 279)

During this same period, Grant told President Johnson that he would only obey his orders if they were written. This was serious insubordination. “Since when,” asked Stryker, “had a general the right to tell the President of the United States that he would disobey his commands unless they were in writing?” (Andrew Johnson, p. 547). Since Stanton was illegally refusing to step down as secretary of war, Johnson issued a written order to Grant that he not obey orders from Stanton unless he knew for a fact that Johnson had authorized them. Grant then suggested to Johnson, in writing, that he would not obey this order and that he would continue to assume that Stanton’s orders were authorized by the president (Andrew Johnson, p. 549). During Johnson’s trial in the Senate, Grant took the highly inappropriate step of writing to Senator Henderson of Missouri to urge him to vote for a guilty verdict.

There were other Radical abuses. In January 1868, the Radicals and most of their fellow Republicans passed a bill, over Johnson’s veto, that transferred all of Johnson’s authority in Reconstruction to General Grant. The Radicals also worked to deny President Johnson his constitutional authority to appoint justices to the Supreme Court by amending the Judiciary Act so the president couldn’t fill vacancies that might occur on the high court (McDonald, States’ Rights and the Union, p. 211). After Edwin Stanton barricaded himself in his office and asked the Radicals for help, two Radicals, Senator Zachary Chandler and Representative John Logan, personally led a company of one hundred men to guard the War Department building (Brodie, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 335).

When even the Lincoln-packed Supreme Court tried to curb Republican lawlessness, the Radicals reacted with outrage. In the Ex Parte Milligan case, the high court finally gathered enough courage to conclude that it was illegal to impose military rule on civilians in non-combat areas where civil courts were still in operation (which was what the Republicans had been doing, in the North, for much of the war). The Radicals were furious with this ruling, partly because it implied they had committed judicial murder, since several civilians had been sentenced to death by federal military courts. Then, in Ex Parte McCardle, the Supreme Court upheld the right of habeas corpus and reaffirmed the principle that civilians couldn’t be tried in military courts when civil courts were available. The Radicals were so angered by this decision that they introduced bills in Congress that would have (1) abolished the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction in all habeas corpus cases, (2) ended all judicial review of acts of Congress, and (3) prohibited the high court from reviewing cases that involved “political questions,” including the Reconstruction Act. This was an open attack on basic American concepts of government, justice, and due process. For example, if the Supreme Court were denied jurisdiction in habeas corpus cases, it would be unable to protect citizens against unlawful arrest and imprisonment. That was exactly what the Radicals wanted. Forrest McDonald observes,

That decision [Ex Parte McCardle] elicited the most outraged Radical response yet. Three drastic bills were introduced in Congress: to abolish the Court’s jurisdiction in all habeas corpus cases; to abolish entirely judicial review of acts of Congress; and to deny the Court power to review “political questions,” including cases arising under the Reconstruction Act. Loud protests against the measures were heard throughout the country, and none was passed. Had they been enacted, the Court would have been destroyed as an arbiter of the Constitution. (States’ Rights and the Union, p. 218)

Gideon Welles, a cabinet member under both Lincoln and Johnson, viewed the Radicals with disdain and distrust.

“Hate, revenge, and persecution enter largely into their composition,” wrote Gideon Welles. “These fanatics want a God to punish, not to love, those who do not agree with them”. . . .

Four fifths of the radicals, he wrote, “are small party men . . . without any knowledge of the science of government or of our Constitution. With them all, the great, overpowering purpose and aim are office and patronage. Most of their legislation relates to office and their highest conception of legislative duty has in view place and how to get it”. . . .

“These Radical patriots are swindling the country while imposing on its credulity,” wrote Welles. “The granting of acts of incorporation, bounties, special privileges, favors, and profligate legislation of every description is shocking.” (Stampp in Grob and Billias, editors, Interpretations of American History, Volume 2, pp. 58-59, 60)

I’m not arguing that all the Radicals were corrupt or that everything they believed was wrong. Although I share the view that many of the Radicals were more interested in power than in civil rights, I also believe that some of them were sincere. The Radicals deserve credit for eventually forcing Lincoln to provide equal pay for black Union soldiers during the war and for trying to provide food, clothing, and income for former slaves after the war. For the most part, the Radicals’ positions on civil rights issues were commendable, enlightened, and moral. However, in many cases the Radicals used ruthless, illegal, and unethical methods to achieve their civil rights objectives, and some of their other objectives were dishonorable.

In a very real sense, the Civil War was not North vs. South; rather, it was hardline Republican leaders and certain Northern business interests vs. the rest of the country. Although the vast majority of Southerners supported the Confederacy, at least 40 percent of Northerners did not support the Republicans and wanted to halt or even abandon the federal invasion of the South. Before the war, dozens of Northern newspapers voiced the view that the South should be allowed to depart in peace. During the war, so many Northern citizens opposed Lincoln’s policies that the Republicans had to impose military rule on large areas of the North.

A good indication of Lincoln’s significant lack of Northern support can be seen in the results of the 1864 presidential election. Amazingly, Lincoln’s opponent in that election, former Union general George McClellan, received 41 percent of the vote, even though by then it was clear the North was going to win the war, even though the Republicans engaged in questionable polling-place tactics in certain areas, and even though the Republicans had muzzled criticism of the war in much of the Northern press.

At just about any point in the war, it’s probable that a majority of Americans opposed the use of force to hold the Union together. If Southern citizens had voted even in the 1864 election, McClellan may very well have received a majority of the popular vote, especially if the election had been conducted fairly. If the election had been held in 1862 and had included Southern citizens, Lincoln almost certainly would have lost the popular vote in a landslide. If Northern citizens had known in advance what Lincoln was going to do in response to secession, it’s unlikely that he would have been elected in the first place. It should be remembered that when Lincoln won the 1860 election, he only received 39.9 percent of the popular vote. The conservative vote was split between three candidates, Stephen Douglas, John Breckinridge, and John Bell, each of whom, incidentally, later voiced opposition to using force to maintain the Union. Lincoln received about 1.9 million votes, while Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell received about 2.8 million votes. However, Lincoln won the election because 122 of the 152 Electoral College votes that he needed for victory were concentrated in just six Northern states.

One of the many untold stories of the Civil War is the fact that Indians, Hispanics, and African Americans supported and even fought for the Confederacy. The five tribes of the Indian Territory supported the Confederacy and contributed troops to the Confederate army. One Confederate general was a Cherokee Indian and was one of the last flag officers to surrender his troops at the end of the war.

Thousands of Hispanics served as soldiers in the Confederate army, and some even served as commissioned officers. In his book Hispanic Confederates (Clearfield Company, 1999), John O’Donnell-Rosales identifies 3,600 Hispanic Confederate soldiers by name and unit. The Confederate commissioner to northern Mexico was a Cuban named José Agustín Quintero. Hispanic American Santos Benavides commanded the Confederate 33rd Texas Cavalry, the Mexican-American unit that defeated Union forces in the 1864 Battle of Laredo. Santiago Vidaurri, the governor of the Mexican border states of Coahuila and Nuevo León, offered to have northern Mexico secede and join the Confederacy, but Jefferson Davis declined the offer because he was afraid Lincoln would then blockade Mexican ports.

There is evidence that thousands of African Americans fought for the Confederacy. For example, the chief inspector of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Dr. Lewis Steiner, reported that he saw about 3,000 well-armed black Confederate soldiers in Stonewall Jackson’s army and that those soldiers were "manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederate Army." In a Union army battle report, a “General D. Stuart” complained about the deadly effectiveness of the black Confederate soldiers whom his troops had encountered. Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest had slaves and free blacks serving in units under his command, and said of them, “These boys stayed with me . . . and better Confederates did not live.” After the Battle of Gettysburg, Union forces took seven black Confederate soldiers as prisoners, as was noted in a Northern newspaper at the time, which said, “. . . reported among the rebel prisoners were seven blacks in Confederate uniforms fully armed as soldiers.” None other than African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass complained that there were “many” blacks in the Confederate army who were armed and “ready to shoot down” Union soldiers. During the Battle of Chickamauga, slaves serving Confederate soldiers armed themselves and asked permission to join the fight—and when they received that permission they fought commendably. Their commander, Captain J. B. Briggs, later noted that these men “filled a portion of the line of advance as well as any company of the regiment.” There are numerous accounts of slaves assisting Confederate soldiers in battle and helping them to escape capture afterward (see, for example, Francis Springer, War for What?, Springfield, Tennessee: Nippert Publishing Company, 1990, pp. 172-183). After the war, hundreds of African Americans received Confederate veterans’ pensions. Photos of reunions of Confederate veterans show African Americans in attendance. As strange as it may seem to most people in our day, many Southern slaves and free blacks felt loyalty to the South and viewed Union troops as invaders. Says Cisco,

Down in Charleston, free blacks . . . declared that “our allegiance is due to South Carolina and in her defense, we will offer up our lives, and all that is dear to us.” Even slaves routinely expressed loyalty to their homeland, thousands serving the Confederate Army faithfully. (Taking A Stand, p. 112)

In the July 1919 issue of The Journal of Negro History, Charles S. Wesley discussed the issue of blacks in the Confederate army:

The loyalty of the slave in guarding home and family during his master’s absence has long been eloquently orated. The Negroes’ loyalty extended itself even to service in the Confederate army. Believing their land invaded by hostile foes, slaves eagerly offered themselves for service in actual warfare. . . .

At the outbreak of the war, an observer in Charleston noted the war-time preparations and called particular attention to “the thousand Negroes who, so far from inclining to insurrections, were grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of shooting the Yankees.” In the same city, one of the daily papers stated in early January that 150 free colored men had offered their services to the Confederate Government, and at Memphis a recruiting office was opened. In June 1861 the Legislature of Tennessee authorized Governor Harris to receive into the state military service all male persons of color between the ages of fifteen and fifty and to provide them with eight dollars a month, clothing, and rations. . . . In the same state, under the command of Confederate officers, marched a procession of several hundred colored men carrying shovels, axes, and blankets. The observer adds, “they were brimful of patriotism, shouting for Jeff Davis and singing war songs.” A paper in Lynchburg, Virginia, commenting on the enlistment of seventy free Negroes to fight for the defense of the State, concluded with “three cheers for the patriotic Negroes of Lynchburg.”

Two weeks after the firing on Fort Sumter, several companies of volunteers of color passed through Augusta, Georgia, on their way to Virginia to engage in actual war. . . . In November of the same year, a military review was held in New Orleans, where twenty-eight thousand troops passed before Governor Moore, General Lowell, and General Ruggles. The line of march extended beyond seven miles and included one regiment comprised of 1,400 free colored men. (In J. H. Segars and Charles Kelly Barrow, editors, Black Southerners in Confederate Armies: A Collection of Historical Accounts, Atlanta, Georgia: Southern Lion Books, 2001, pp. 2-4)

Civil War author Francis Springer noted two other accounts of free blacks showing support for the Confederacy:

The Petersburg Daily Express of April 26, 1861, had it that 300 free Negroes about to leave the city to work on fortifications, assembled at the courthouse to hear a speech by ex-mayor John Dodson. Charles Tinsley, one of the free Negroes, said, “We are willing to aid Virginia’s cause to the utmost extent of our ability.” He stepped forward to receive the Confederate flag, stating, “I could feel no greater pride, no more genuine gratification than to plant this flag on Fortress Monroe.” Other work crews marched through the city, singing, headed for the fortifications, according to reports of the times. The Charleston Evening News said that about 125 free Negroes arrived in Petersburg, uniformed in red shirts and dark pants, all in fine spirits and carrying the flag of the Confederacy on their way to work in fortifications around Norfolk. (War for What?, p. 86)

Springer also discussed an incident in which a group of slaves who had been forced to serve in the Union army volunteered to fight for the Confederacy after they were captured by Confederate forces:

Some Union Negro troops, captured by General Forrest on his last Tennessee raid, had been put to work on some fortifications in Mobile Bay. On an inspection tour, General Richard Taylor complimented them on their work, whereupon one of their leading members said, “Give us some guns, Marse General, and we’ll fight for you too. We’d rather fight for our own white folks than for strangers.” Evidently they were Southern Negroes who had been impressed [forced] into service on the Union side. (War for What?, p. 106)

As mentioned earlier, there are many accounts of slaves coming to the aid of Confederate soldiers during and after combat. Perhaps this is an indication that Confederate officers usually tried to properly care for the slaves who were working in their units. General Braxton Bragg, commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, issued a written order that “All employees of this army, black as well as white, shall receive the same rations, quarters, and medical treatment.” In late April 1862, General John B. Magruder of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia learned that Secretary of War George Randolph had received complaints about how slaves were being treated in his unit. Magruder wrote to Randolph to assure him that his unit was doing all it could to properly care for its slaves. We should pause to note two things here: One, that apparently some Confederate citizens took the time to raise concerns about the treatment of the slaves in Magruder’s army. And, two, that Magruder felt he needed to respond to the complaints by writing a letter to the secretary of war himself. In his letter, Magruder said the following:

Sir, I have learned that complaints have been made to you of the treatment of the slaves employed in this army.

It is quite true that much hardship has been endured by the negroes in the recent prosecution of the defensive works on our lines; but this has been unavoidable, owing to the constant and long-continued wet weather. Every precaution has been adopted to secure their health and safety as far as circumstances would allow. The soldiers, however, have been more exposed and have suffered far more than the slaves. The latter [the slaves] have always slept under cover and have had fires to make them comfortable, while the men have been working in the rain, have stood in the trenches and rifle pits in mud and water almost knee-deep, without shelter, fire, or sufficient food. There has been sickness among the soldiers and the slaves, but far more among the former than the latter. (Letter from General John B. Magruder to Secretary of War George Randolph, April 29, 1862, in Segars and Barrow, Black Southerners in Confederate Armies, p. 44)

Another untold story of the Civil War is the brutal way that many Union forces treated Southern slaves. One Union unit, commanded by Colonel John Turchin, moved into Athens, Georgia, and, with Turchin’s approval, spent weeks in the slave huts “debauching the females.” Turchin’s superior officers court-martialed and convicted him for his crimes. (Amazingly, Lincoln later promoted Turchin to brigadier general.) In another case, a Union colonel, Ignatz Kappner, reported that Union troops “broke en masse in the camps of the colored women and are committing all sorts of outrage.” In some cases, Union soldiers would torture and even kill slaves who would not reveal the location of their masters’ valuables. Union soldiers usually viewed captured or runaway slaves as “contrabands” and often mistreated them. Says McPherson,

While northern soldiers had no love for slavery, most of them had no love for slaves either. . . . While some Yanks treated contrabands with a degree of equity and benevolence, the more typical response was indifference, contempt, and cruelty. Soon after Union forces captured Port Royal, South Carolina, in November 1861, a private described an incident there that made him “ashamed of America”: “About 8-10 soldiers from the New York 47th chased some Negro women but they escaped, so they took a Negro girl about 7-9 years old, and raped her.” From Virginia a Connecticut soldier wrote that some men of his regiment had taken “two Nigger wenches [women] . . . turned them upon their heads, and put tobacco, chips, sticks, lighted cigars and sand into their behinds.” Even when Billy Yank welcomed the contrabands, he often did so from utilitarian rather than humanitarian motives. “Officers and men are having an easy time,” wrote a Maine soldier from occupied Louisiana in 1862. “We have Negroes to do all fatigue work, cooking and washing clothes." (The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 497, emphasis added)

The case of the Union army’s treatment of the slaves in Bisland, Louisiana, is another example of federal mistreatment of Southern slaves. When Union forces occupied the area around Bisland, they caused the deaths of numerous slaves and left hundreds of others in terrible condition. When Confederate forces recaptured the area, they found shallow graves where slaves had been hastily buried. They found a local sugar house filled with dead and dying slaves. In one location the roads were lined with slaves who were half-starved, sick, and unable to care for themselves. Upon seeing the plight of the Bisland slaves, the Confederate troops provided them with food, medicine, and transportation, saving hundreds of them from certain death (James and Walter Kennedy, The South Was Right!, Second Edition, Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, 1994, pp. 143-144; David Edmonds, editor, The Conduct of Federal Troops in Louisiana, Lafayette, Louisiana: The Acadiana Press, 1988, pp. 116-119).

Textbooks note that well over 100,000 slaves served in the Union army, but they rarely inform the reader that thousands of those men were forced to serve. Union army records and other sources document that thousands of slaves were abducted and then forced into military service; some were taken from their plantations during Union raids, while others were seized in areas that were occupied by federal forces. General John Logan told General Grant, “A major of colored troops is here capturing negroes, with or without their consent.” General Lovell Rousseau informed General G. H. Thomas that “officers in command of colored troops are in constant habit of pressing [i.e., forcing] all able-bodied slaves into the military service of the U.S.” Even in the Union slave state of Kentucky, federal gunboats raided plantations, “carrying off slaves to help build military railroads, fortifications, and wagon roads” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 161). In May 1862, federal troops in South Carolina forcefully rounded up hundreds of slaves in compliance with General David Hunter’s order to raise two regiments of black troops from slaves (or “contrabands”) in his region. Edward Pierce, a special agent with the U.S. Department of the Treasury in Port Royal, South Carolina, described one conscription scene in a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase dated May 12, 1862:

The scenes of today . . . have been distressing. . . . Some 500 men were hurried . . . from Ladies and Saint Helena to Beaufort . . . and then carried to Hilton Head. . . . The negroes were sad. . . . The superintendents . . . aided the military in the disagreeable affair, disavowing the act. Sometimes whole plantations, learning what was going on, ran off into the woods for refuge. Others, with no means of escape, submitted passively to the inevitable decree. . . . (In Keys, The Uncivil War, p. 21)

The next day Pierce wrote to General Hunter to tell him about the consequences of his order. He said slaves were taken suddenly and weren’t allowed to go home before leaving. He added that some of the slaves wailed and screamed and that others fled into the woods but were pursued by soldiers:

The colored people became suspicious of the presence of the companies of soldiers detailed for the service. . . . They were taken from the fields without being allowed to go to their homes even to get a jacket. . . . There was sadness in all. As those on this plantation were called in from the fields, the soldiers, under orders, and while on the steps of my headquarters, loaded their guns, so that the negroes might see what would take place in case they attempted to get away. . . .

On some plantations the wailing and screaming were loud and the women threw themselves in despair on the ground. On some plantations the people took to the woods and were hunted up by the soldiers. (In Keys, The Uncivil War, pp. 21-22)

The conscription of slaves by federal forces continued even after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. For example, several months after the proclamation was issued, General Innis Palmer wanted to provide “laborers” for federal troops at Fort Monroe. He informed his superior on September 1, 1864, that even though he was having trouble “collecting the colored men” for this purpose, he had already sent 221 of them and was expecting to get “a large lot” the next day:

. . . the negroes will not go voluntarily, so I am obliged to force them. I have sent seventy-one and will send this afternoon about 150. I expect to get a large lot tomorrow. . . The matter of collecting the colored men for laborers has been one of some difficulty, but I hope to send up a respectable force. . . . They will not go willingly. . . . They must be forced to go. . . . I am aware that this may be considered a harsh measure, but . . . we must not stop at trifles. (In Keys, The Uncivil War, p. 106)

Southern family journals and letters contain numerous accounts of Union soldiers forcefully removing slaves from their homes, even when the slaves made it clear they didn’t want to leave (see, for example, Henry Steele Commager, editor, The Civil War Archive: The History of the Civil War in Documents, New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2000, pp. 333-336, 675-677).

I’m not suggesting that all slaves remained loyal to their masters or to the South during the war. Many thousands of Southern slaves did in fact flock to Union lines, just as thousands of colonial slaves flocked to British lines during the Revolutionary War. But many Southern slaves remained loyal, and quite of few of them viewed Union troops as invaders.

What If the South Had Been Allowed to Go in Peace?

Did the world end when America became a separate country from England? No, and not only have America and England long been staunch allies and close trading partners, but their peoples continue to share many friendships and family relationships. Norway seceded from Sweden, without a war, and the two countries still enjoy friendly relations. Although I don’t advocate modern secession, and although I’m proud of the many good things that America has done, I don’t think it would have been the end of the world if the South had been allowed to go in peace.

I think both the U.S.A. and the C.S.A. would have flourished. Interchange between the states of the two nations would have continued almost exactly as before. If anything, the presence of a prosperous low-tax, limited-government Southern confederacy would have been a powerful incentive for the federal government to limit taxes and to adhere more closely to the limitations imposed on it by the Constitution.

Some critics have suggested that if the Confederacy had survived, World War II may have had a different outcome. But the fact that England and America separated didn’t prevent them from later joining forces to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II. The U.S. and the Confederacy certainly would have teamed up to do the same thing.

If the South had been permitted to go in peace, slavery would have died a natural death in a matter of a few decades, if not sooner. Before the war, even some Northern politicians, such as William Seward, said slavery was a dying institution. The percentage of Southern whites that belonged to slaveholding families dropped by 5 percent from 1850-1860 (Divine et al, editor, America Past and Present, p. 389). Historian Allan Nevins noted that by the 1850s "slavery was dying all around the edges of its domain" (The Emergence of Lincoln, Volume 2, p. 469). Although slavery was still economically profitable, its days were numbered. Interestingly, some of the most vocal Northern abolitionists, including Wendell Phillips, welcomed the South’s secession because they believed Southern slavery would die out more quickly if the South were no longer part of the Union.

If the South had been allowed to leave in peace, over 600,000 soldiers (over half of them from the North) would have been spared death. Over 50,000 Southern civilians likewise would have been spared death. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers would not have been wounded for life. Millions of families would have been spared sorrow and anguish over their dead and wounded loved ones. Billions of dollars in property damage would have been avoided. And, race relations would not have suffered the poisoning that they experienced during and after the war.

“But,” some will ask, “wouldn’t the Union have been destroyed if the Confederacy had survived?” This was one of Lincoln’s erroneous arguments. The Union would not have been “destroyed” if the South had been allowed to leave in peace. The Union still would have had 23 states, compared to the Confederacy’s 11 states, and it would have retained control over the vast western territories. The Union’s population was more than twice the size of the Confederacy’s. In addition, the Union had nine times more factories than the Confederacy, twenty times more pig iron, seventeen times more textiles, two and a half times more miles of railroad tracks, thirty-two times more firearms, and nine times more production value. The Union still would have been one of the largest and most powerful countries on the earth even without the eleven states of the Confederacy. So the Union would have been just fine if the Republicans had allowed the South to go in peace. (Of course, if the two nations had lived in peace, the Union would have needed to lower its tariff in order to compete with the low Confederate tariff, but that could have been done in a matter of days by the U.S. Congress.)

What would the South be like today if the Confederacy had survived? No one can say with certainty, but it’s likely that taxes of all kinds would be much lower. Citizens would have much less government interference in their lives. Parents would have more control over their children’s education and over their local schools. Southern schools would most likely allow voluntary prayer, moral instruction, nativity plays at Christmas time, and formal Bible reading (as our schools used to do until the 1960s when the Supreme Court suddenly decided these things were somehow “unconstitutional”). There would be tough anti-pornography laws. The lives of unborn children would be protected by law. There would be no question that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman. And a state government could place a Ten Commandments monument in front of a state judicial building without having to worry about a federal judge wrongfully ordering its removal.

However, all this being said, I think that if the South had been allowed to go in peace, it would have eventually rejoined the Union. But, if not, I don’t think it would have been the end of the world if the South had remained independent. England and America have managed to do very well as separate nations. So have Norway and Sweden. I think the Confederacy and the United States could have done the same thing.

Final Thoughts

Some people think it is unpatriotic or divisive to defend the Southern side of the Civil War. As a retired U.S. Army veteran and a flag-waving patriot, I reject that view. Confederate citizens were Americans too. They were citizens of the “Confederate States of America.” Their heroes included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason, Davy Crockett, and Andrew Jackson. The official Confederate seal featured the image of George Washington on his horse. The Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, was a former U.S. Army officer, a genuine hero in the Mexican War, an outstanding U.S. secretary of war, and a highly respected member of the U.S. Senate. Dozens of other Confederate officials had likewise served faithfully in the U.S. government. One of the members of the Confederate Congress was former U.S. president John Tyler.

It is time for the demonization and smearing of the Confederacy to stop. Compared with other nations of its day, the Confederacy was one of the most democratic countries in the world. Even during the war, the Confederacy held elections and had a vibrant free press. In fact, on balance, the Confederacy was more democratic than some nations in our day. Confederate citizens enjoyed every right that we now enjoy, if not more. The Confederacy sought peace with the federal government and only fought because it was invaded. The Confederate Constitution was patterned after the U.S. Constitution and contained improvements that even some Northern commentators acknowledged were praiseworthy.

Yes, the Confederacy permitted slavery, but it left the door open for the admission of free states and for the abolition of slavery at the state level. Let’s keep in mind, too, that the American colonies permitted slavery for decades, that the United States permitted slavery for over half a century, that several Northern states made huge fortunes from the slave trade, and that many of our founding fathers were slaveholders, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Madison, John Rutledge, George Mason, and Benjamin Franklin. Let’s also keep in mind that most Confederate citizens did not own slaves, and that by 1864 key Confederate leaders were prepared to abolish slavery.

I agree with the sentiments that former Confederate army officer Robert Catlett Cave expressed in 1911:

Does the propriety of discussing the causes of the War Between the States belong exclusively to Northern writers and speakers? Did the South, when she laid down her arms, surrender the right to state in self-justification her reasons for taking them up? If not, I fail to see how it can be improper, when perpetuating the memory of the Confederate dead, at least to attempt to correct false and injurious representations of their aims and deeds and to hand down their achievements to posterity as worthy of honorable remembrance. (The Men in Gray, pp. 11-12)