There is afoot in this great nation a powerful movement to erase all positive references to the Confederacy. The mantra of this movement is quite simple: “North good, South bad. North beat up South, make good.”
In today’s (7/11/15) Houston Chronicle there is an op-ed piece, written by one Sanford Levinson, Professor of Law at the University of Texas, Austin. If interested you can go to the Chronicle’s web site but for the gist of the article just reread the mantra above.
My problem is not with the good professor’s opinion, which he is certainly entitled to hold, but with the suspicion that he, as do so many others, bases his teaching on half truth and revised history.
And it isn’t just Professor Levinson. Since the tragic affair in South Carolina, there has been a flurry of activity to cleanse the culture of all things Confederate and in doing so we are often treated to only the part of the story that the revisionists wish to have remembered.
We are told that the North hated slavery and that its citizens were anxious to support a war to free the slaves. Yet the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 remained on the books until 1864 and was enforced by the North, during the war, in the border states under Union control. The Union army listed escaped slaves as “captured contraband property,” not a designation one would expect to be used when fighting to grant freedom to fellow human beings.
The “Congressional Act Prohibiting Return of Slaves.” enacted on March, 13, 1862 is often touted as showing the North’s opposition to slavery but in fact only prohibited slaves being returned to those areas in rebellion. What is often ignored is that the North did not even introduce slavery into the political discussion until late 1862, and then only when it looked like they were losing the war and needed something to rally support.
Then there were the textile mill operators, a wealthy and powerful group in the North at the time of the War Between the States. Revisionist historians tend to ignore that these men were greatly influential in Washington and had a vested interest in keeping the price of cotton low. They were proponents of slavery because they realized paying wages for the work done by slaves would only cause the price of cotton to rise, thereby lowering their profit margins.
We are being told that the primary cause of the War Between the States was that Southern men hated the Africans and wanted to keep them subjugated. There is never any talk of the punitive tariffs and price controls that made slave labor the only viable means of working the cotton and indigo crops and that these measures were put in place by the North in order to keep the South in a position not much better than that of indentured servants.
The industrial North had little need for slaves in the workplace and so their’s were primally personal servants, easily disposed of when the tide against the institution began to swell. When the sentiment against slavery began to take hold in the North it was a simple matter to sell them to the South and then beat the drum for abolition.
As for “The Great Emancipator” himself, Lincoln’s end game was not to free the slaves and bring them into the American family. His reason for wanting to free them was so that they could be removed, en masse, from the United States and relocated to Africa, South or Central America or some Caribbean island. See the link at top for a full text of his meeting with prominent free black men of the era to discuss enlisting their aid in selling the program.
Slavery was then, and remains today in those places where it is practiced and condoned, a despicable violation of basic human rights. But to use slavery as a brush to paint over our history as it happened is also an egregious act. Perception too easily becomes reality and when the perceived history of a nation is revised and sanitized to fit changing cultural mores then the big loser is truth. We have a sacred duty to our posterity to protect the past, if only as a teaching tool for the future. What happened, happened. We need to preserve our history, all of it, in a factual manner and present it without revision for candid discussion.
Would it not be more constructive if all those who hold a firm moral stance against the past injustices of slavery in this country were to turn their attention to the very real problem of slavery as it exists today? I would suggest that they do a search for “The Department of Justice Annual Report on Human Trafficking”, download it and then access a list of United States Trading Partners. Note the names on the DOJ list of nations that, contrary to their own law in many cases, practice or condone slavery and compare it with the list of US trading partners. The matches are far too lengthy to reproduce here but you might start with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Then, instead of attempting to alter the past, why not make a positive effort to improve the future for those people being held in bondage today? We contribute billions of dollars to countries where slavery is a very real institution today. Those of you who would sanitize US history are actually contributing to the ongoing issue of present day slavery through your tax dollars. How does that make you feel? Angry enough to confront the situation with the same level of vehemence that you bring to erasing the history of the Confederacy? Just saying.