So as you may have heard, tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the 100th anniversary of the first shots of the Civil War, or as my Tea Party fav Rep. Paul Broun likes to call it, the Great War of Yankee Aggression. If only Abraham Lincoln had imposed that no-cannonball-fly-zone over Fort Sumter!
Anyway, it's fascinating the extent to which people are still arguing about what actually caused the war. Hint: It begins with "s" and ends with "lavery":
When Texans decided to secede from the Union, for example, they did so because, according to their official order of secession, "the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States."
Likewise, the Confederate constitution, the document establishing the nation Southerners fought to create, makes the centrality of slavery to that nation clear, declaring, "No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed." For Confederates, this was first and foremost a war to perpetuate slavery.
The end of the war did indeed bring about the end of slavery, just as Confederates had feared. They responded in the years that followed by rewriting the history of slavery, and thus the primary reason they fought the war.
Actually, this good Inquirer op-ed by history professor Steven Conn left out some of the best evidence that the war was about preseving slavery, and little -- if nothing -- else: The famous "cornerstone speech" by the Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens, right before the start of the hostilities in 1861 included this most telling passage:
Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.
OK, well, that settles it then. Or not. As someone who spent a year watching the rise of the Tea Party Movement and I think doing a decent job in understanding its root causes, I have to confess I'm still baffled at how willing conservatives -- and not just Southerners -- are now to argue that the war was about 57 other things besides slavery, and why. Just check out the comments, dumb at best and noxious at worst, that Philly.com readers who presumably mostly hail from this side of the Mason-Dixon line posted in response to Conn's op-ed. Apparently the Civil War was actually just typical overreach from the big government lefty in the big hat with the socialist beard.
But I'm sure Attytood commenters won't go there...right?