From: Mark Vogl
Date: Tue, Aug 18, 2015 at 9:39 AM
Subject: Get history right, before you teach it
The wrong lesson learned from the American Civil War
Study history, not propaganda.
Once again “truth sayers” are on the march, telling us that slavery was the cause of the civil war, 1861 – 1865.
Terrorism against the South (John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry in order to ignite a slave revolt is the best known, but not the only actions), related to slavery could be said to be a reason for states seceding. The extended violence in Kansas and Missouri, the financing of terrorism by abolitionist extremists in New England certainly helped raise tensions between the sections.
The fact that Northern states would not enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws could be said to be a grievance and thus another reason for secession. Exorbitant taxes by the Federal government on Southern agricultural products (produced through slave labor) that were then spent on projects that benefited the northern states exclusively was yet another grievance that led the people of the South to decide for secession.
It could be that the differences between the South and the rest of the nation in terms of values, economics, and dependence on the federal government all contributed to Southern unhappiness. However, at the time of Lincoln’s election in 1860, there was no threat to slavery as a peculiar institution. Lincoln, and the new Republican Party had insufficient power to change the Constitution. All Lincoln could do was not enforce federal laws concerning fugitive slaves…much as President Obama today ignores the Mexican border and refuses to deport identified illegals. (A lesson learned from the pre Civil War actions of Buchanan and Yankees governors, and expected to continue with Lincoln.)
But the cause of the war rests in only one place, with only one man, Abraham Lincoln. It was President Lincoln who, as Commander in Chief, used military force to invade the South. It was Lincoln who would not allow the peaceful Constitutional process for redress of grievances, through secession, occur. The war was very clearly commenced by the Union, and it was commenced for one purpose; Lincoln acted in conjunction with Congress to preserve the Union and maintain Federal authority over the Southern states. No declaration of war was offered and approved. The Confederate States repeatedly said they wanted peace with the United States.
What is wrong with teaching that the civil war occurred because of some perceived threat to the institution of slavery, not only factually, but because it leads those taught this fallacy to think that a president has the power to manifest campaign promises without regard to the Constitution. Lincoln had no power to free the slaves, and thus slavery was not threatened.
The very fact that it took an amendment to the Constitution after Lincoln’s death to free the slaves, and end slavery in the United States proves the point. Hundreds of thousands of dead federals, occupation of the South, did not free the slaves or end slavery. The Constitution remained supreme…even if it was ignored with respect to the right of secession and the sovereignty of the states.
Lincoln, who had no formal training in an academic setting regarding law, could easily have missed the concept of secession, but his military leaders did not. That right of the state was taught at West Point, and explains why 40% of the Army’s officers would resign their commission and enter service on the side of the Confederacy.
Why this is so wrong, why it is wrong to teach fallacy is because it removes the responsibility of governing from the people, and from their representatives. It cheapens the Constitution, and sets aside the idea that we are a nation of law, where all must abide by the law; not just the people, or low civil servants, but all. In teaching the war was about slavery teaches the idea of an imperial presidency, with no checks and balances.
We are seeing multiple examples of elected and appointed office holders, from former Secretary of State Clinton, to the current President and people inside the White House ignore the law of land in order to pursue their own agendas.
History matters, we can learn from history. But we can only learn from it if we accept the facts as they are, not shape history into a story that seems to fit our modern needs. There are many many lessons to learn from the events that led up to the secession of the states, and many lessons to be learned by the radical reaction of Lincoln’s government. And what has happened in terms of the revisionist history of the lead up to the Civil War, has been outdone by the erasure of the role of Christianity in creating the United States of America.
On a completely different intellectual front, teaching the war was solely about slavery creates an intellectual black hole. No other causes are considered, and the Confederate Constitution, which implemented many significant changes to address what the South saw as bad trends within the Constitution were incorporated. Among them, God was included in the Preamble, the president was given a line item veto power, and alot more power in terms for the budget, and states’ powers were enhanced in most areas stopping the encroachment of the federal government into domestic policy. Americans are never taught, there is an alternative.
We are missing out on the benefits of history, by teaching propaganda.