By Valerie Protopapas
All of us know—or think we know—about many matters especially with regard to popular history. Frequently our knowledge is the result of oft-repeated truisms that reflect more the opinions of the reporter than the facts of the matter. Therefore, if we are wise, when we are about to have our beliefs challenged, we will at least try to recognize the “wobble” in our own “mental lens” through which we view the matter under discussion. If we do not, we often disregard facts that challenge—or embrace myths that validate our own viewpoints. Until we recognize what constitutes fact and what opinion, we are not only at a disadvantage in a debate, but we may never come to know the truth. Nowhere is the issue of “preconceived” knowledge more flagrant and ubiquitous than in that period of history known as the American “Civil War.” And, frankly, no more forceful attitudes exist in this matter than those surrounding the issue of slavery and the part it played in that great tragedy. But I would like to challenge those beliefs and notions through the use of an allegory.
Who does not recognize the name and know the story of the mighty British liner Titanic? And, if asked, how many know what it was that sank that great ship? On April 14th, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank within hours killing over 2,000 people. It is a disaster which still haunts the minds of men, very much as does the great disaster we call—erroneously—the American Civil War. And just as in the matter of that war, the cause of that sinking is far more complex than a piece of ice carried on an ocean current into the Great Circle Route used by Atlantic shipping. To begin with, the berg did not seek out the Titanic. Unlike the German U-boat that only three years later sent another great British liner to the bottom, Titanic’s nemesis was a mere creation of nature without means or motive to render any ill in and of itself. Yet, the meeting of boat and berg on that black April night was both the end and the beginning of events that in the end, dwarfed both participants.
Those who are familiar with the story of the Titanic know that there were numerous events and circumstances—many of which were insignificant at the time—that led to the disaster. Whether it was the high-carbon steel used in the hull which became brittle in cold water (the Atlantic that night was 28 degrees) or the hubris that had developed among those sailing these new leviathans (Captain Smith had said several years earlier that he could not imagine any situation in which a modern ocean liner could sink!) or physical events that were unique to that night (the North Atlantic was flat calm without any swell which ordinarily would have identified the presence of an iceberg to the lookouts long before any contact), all combined to produce that “night to remember.” Yet, when most people are asked “who or what was to blame,” the vast majority identify the iceberg. Indeed, the name and thing that was Titanic and a piece of frozen water that soon melted back into the sea are irrevocably linked in history to the point at which most people will accept no other answer. What happened to the Titanic? She struck and ice berg and sank.
And just as the accepted answer to the question “what sank the Titanic” is “an iceberg,” so, too, the accepted answer to the question of “what caused the Civil War” is “slavery”—or at least it is today. Historians in the past did not hold that opinion. Matters of ongoing sectional conflict, religion, culture, politics and economics were at times variously considered as leading to the breakup of the Union in 1861. Of course, slavery was a part of all these issues—but not the fundamental or primary issue, much less the only issue which led to war. In fact, that particular claim can be laid to rest immediately with the consideration of two circumstances, one at the beginning and the other almost at the end of the war. The first was the introduction of the original 13th Amendment called the Corwin Amendment after Ohio Republican Thomas Corwin which was submitted on March 2nd, 1861 to the Congress in an attempt to forestall the secession of the Cotton States threatened after the election of Abraham Lincoln. The Amendment forbade any attempts to amend the Constitution to empower the Congress to "abolish or interfere" with the "domestic institutions" of the states, including "persons held to labor or service" (a direct reference to slavery). The proposed amendment was submitted to the state legislatures without a deadline so as to make its passage easier. If the States of the South had wished only to preserve slavery, the Corwin Amendment—which had already been passed by at least one “non-Southern” state and signed by outgoing President Buchanan—would have given those States all the protection required for them to remain in the Union.
The second situation is even more telling. In the Hampton Roads conference held between the leaders of the United States and the Confederate States almost at the end of the war, President Lincoln offered to restore the Southern states into the Union as quickly as possible knowing that had they been so restored, they could have voted down any proposed Constitutional Amendment ending slavery! In other words, Lincoln wanted the Union restored and to achieve that end, he offered to the states in supposed rebellion an immediate return to their prior place absent any loss of power, a situation that would have permitted them to prevent the adoption of the 13th Amendment. If slavery were the fundamental reason for both secession and war, as the South was almost at the end of her ability to resist federal might, why bargain away that hard won victory? The answer is simple: slavery was not the cause of the war and its end or continued existence was of less importance to Lincoln and his government than was the restoration of the Union and the continued growth of power of both the American empire and its central government.
If the paths of the Titanic and that iceberg had not crossed on April 14th and that great ship had gone on to arrive safely in New York, we cannot know what would have happened anymore than we can know what would have happened had the Southern states accepted Corwin and remained in the Union. Would slavery still be with us today? Absolutely not! That institution—at least in the New World—was fading away by that time. Even Brazil ended slavery of its own accord in May of 1888 not too many years after the adoption of the second 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution—and it did so without war or internal conflict. Whatever else we may or may not know, we can know this: both the iceberg and chattel slavery were intrinsically involved in these two great human tragedies, but neither was the cause of either.
By Al Benson Jr.
We've all seen a ton of 'Civil War' movies and docudramas that inform us
that the noble Union army was a body of soldiers gotten together so they
could go South and free the slaves held by those mean, nasty Southern
plantation owners. And, of course, everyone knows that, in the South,
everyone had hundreds of slaves that they gleefully beat every morning
before breakfast, because, as we all know, that was how those mean and nasty
Southern racists got their jollies for the day. Well, what about slavery in
the North? Oh, that wasn't really worth mentioning - a manor house here or
there had an occasional black servant, but that was about it. So goes the
standard line of propaganda we have all been fed over the past several
Sorry to burst the bubble, folks, but the science of archaeology is busily
giving the lie to such hogwash. Archaeologists have been busy digging in
several places in the North, and guess what? They are finding Northern
plantations that were operated by slave labor in the same manner as those in
the South were.
An article by Mike Toner, for The Atlanta Journal Constitution says
"Slaveholding plantations, usually thought of as uniquely Southern
institutions, were deeply rooted in the fabric of 'free' states of the North
as well, new archaeological studies are showing. The hidden history of
Northern plantations and their slaves is emerging - one shovelful of soil at
a time - from excavations in and around historic manor houses in
Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York."
The article goes on to note that while slavery was abolished in the North
before the War of Northern Aggression, recent excavations are now showing
that during the late 1700s and early 1800s many of what would now be called
manors were, in fact, full-fledged plantations and they kept black slaves
under about the same conditions that existed further South. Cheryl LaRoche,
a historical archaeologist with the University of Maryland has observed:
"Historians are stunned by some of the evidence...The popular notion is that
slavery in the North consisted of two or three household servants, but there
is growing evidence that there were slaveholding plantations. It's hard to
believe that such a significant and pervasive part of the past could be so
completely erased from our history." With all due respect to LaRoche, it is
not at all hard to believe that this portion of our history has been
"erased." All you have to remember is that in any given war the winners get
to write, or rather rewrite, the history books.
Since the North won the War of Northern Aggression and she supposedly fought
to free the slaves, it would hardly look very good for them to admit that
the same kind of conditions pertaining to slavery existed in the North, only
a few decades earlier than what they were supposedly combatting in the
South. Therefore, that rather embarrassing part of Northern history needed
to be shoved down the memory hole, to be conveniently forgotten, lest future
generations question why the North didn't do something about the slavery
problem sooner than it did. LaRoche also commented that: "America was a
slaveholding country - North and South - Over the years that reality has
been lost, stolen, or just strayed from the history books." Rather than
lost, stolen, or strayed, how about 'deliberately deleted?'
After all, it would be a little difficult for the Northern carpetbaggers and
radical abolitionists to flaunt their moral superiority in the South should
it be discovered that while they had been busily castigating the South for
slavery, similar conditions had existed in their own states up until a
couple decades before the war.
Donnie Kennedy, in his book Myths of American Slavery noted that: "Some
states, such as New Jersey, maintained slavery by redefining it as
'apprenticeship.' Thus, as late as 1860, the Federal census listed slaves in
New Jersey." Kennedy also tells us that slavery was abolished in the North
in order to protect white workers from competition with slave labor. He
tells us that Connecticut prohibited the importation of slaves into her
territory because "the increase of slaves is injurious to the poor." He
notes that: "...pecuniary interests, and not 'liberty, equality, fraternity'
had more to do with the abolition of slavery in the North."
And now, what the politically correct 'historians' have shoved down the
memory hole for decades is being scooped back out by archaeologists with
shovels and trowels. Maybe it's time for those self-righteous radical
abolitionist types to admit to the world that they are at fault for slavery
every bit as much as any Southern plantation owner. And if there were still
slaves in New Jersey in 1860, years after the radical abolitionists in the
North started crusading against Southern slavery, why didn't the
abolitionists deal with the problem in their own back yard first?
They didn't do so because to do so didn't fit their political agenda, which
was to eventually destroy the South and Southern Christian culture. Slavery
aside, that is what radical abolitionism in the North was all about--and the
Northern abolitionists were not above working with and helping Unitarians
and socialists who shared the same agenda.
By Al Benson Jr.
There was recently a letter in the Albany Herald of Albany, Georgia stating that, basically, the “Civil War” has “long been fought and settled…The war is over. Slavery has been abolished in the whole of these great United States. The Union has been salvaged.” Really?
If the “civil war” is really over then why is the South, and also the North now, still under “reconstruction?” If you think it isn't then you haven’t really taken a good look at The Patriot Act or Obama’s new gun/people control initiatives. If it isn't then why are we still saddled with a Yankee/Marxist public school system down here that was, and still is, a major part of “reconstruction.” If we are not still under “reconstruction” then why hasn't the Yankee/Marxist government in Washington removed all of this?
Well you might say, these are all signs of “progress.” Really? The Patriot Act literally eviscerates the original Bill of Rights and Obama’s gun/people control agenda will totally gut the real intent of the Second Amendment, which is to enable us to resist a tyrannical government. And the public school system—if that is a sign of “progress” then all I can say is “God help us!” For more years than I have been alive the public school system has been a tool for denigrating and belittling the history and heritage of the South and seeking to re-educate Southern kids in all the benefits of becoming little wanna-be Yankees with no sense of history or heritage or place—just like they've done to the kids in the North.
Part of the agenda of these “educational facilities” is to destroy the culture of the Old South and replace it with some strange animal called the “new South” which, if looked at closely, is no South at all. In other words, their agenda is Southern cultural genocide, which is supposed to be a crime in other places while in the South it seems to be a requirement.
So slavery has been abolished? What about the welfare program? You know, the one that pays people more to sit at home and become couch potatoes than they could get if they hustled and got honest work? You think that’s not a form of slavery? These people know they need to support everything Obama tries to do or the monthly check might not be there. That’s freedom???
Has the Union really been salvaged? How much does what we now live with resemble the original Union? I submit the gap is tremendous. And those wonderful, progressive, public schools have not taught us enough history so that we can make the comparison between what we had and what we now labor under.
I remember, years ago now, someone said to a pastor I know “The war is over and you lost, so get over it.” To which the pastor replied “If it was just the war we would have gotten over it but you tried to destroy our culture and that’s what we don’t get over.” They’re still trying.
They’re still trying with what they are trying to force down your kids’ throats in public school about how horrendous the Old South was, carefully omitting all its redeeming qualities and its Christian-based faith and worldview. Such anachronisms have to go. They are impeding the “progress” agenda.
I submit the War really isn't over. It has just entered a new phase. In the first phase they tried to destroy us with more men and guns and a scorched earth policy. In the second phase they are trying to obliterate our cultural distinctive and create in us the mindset they possess. It’s more subtle and most Southern folks don’t realize it’s happening, but it is. So as long as they keep doing this kind of thing is the War really over, or has it just entered the propaganda phase?
At this point the Southern states can’t secede—although there is one school of thought in the Southern/Confederate Movement which contends that they are still seceded, that the Southern states are a country under occupation. That would be consistent with the War not really being over and “reconstruction” still being enforced. But how about cultural secession? That’s something we all need to work at.